The viewpoint is just outside the Porta della Carta entrance to the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), looking west-south-west, with the north-west corner of the palace on the left, and the two ancient Byzantine pillars known as the Pilastri Acritani outside the south-west corner of the Basilica of San Marco (St Mark’s) on the right. Beyond to the left, facing the Piazzetta in the morning sunlight, is the Libreria Sansoviniana, with the Procuratie Nouve receding along the south side of the Piazza (St Mark’s Square). Tate D32244 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 28) is a contemporary watercolour study looking in the opposite direction from about the same point, through the Porta della Carta itself.1
Ian Warrell has characterised the view:
The angle from which Turner depicted [the pillars] was quite close and very low, and indicates that he must have been sitting near the doorway to the palace. As the light on the campanile is warming its eastern flanks, it is probable that the study was executed early one morning, before too many people arrived in the Piazzetta.2
It is always a moot point as to how much of Turner’s watercolour work was done immediately in front of the subject. D32244, for example, reveals considerable manipulation of proportion and detail, either deliberately or through reliance on pencil studies, making it perhaps less likely to have been produced at the site. In the present instance, the immediacy of the effect of light and the accuracy in placing the various elements suggests that at least a substantial beginning was made on the spot. Of many pencil studies made over the years in this vicinity, compare Tate D32435 (Turner Bequest CCCXX 88) in the 1840 Rotterdam to Venice sketchbook, a horizontal panoramic view from a few steps further on and to the right from an unusual position in the narrow space between the pillars and the church; it looks both south down the Piazzetta and east to the campanile of St Mark’s (as here), but without enough detail to fully inform the present work.
See Stainton 1982, p.71.
Warrell 2003, p.123.
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1024 and opposite; see also Finberg 1930, p.175.
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1024.
See also Wilton 1974, pp.155, 156–7, Wilton 1976, p.150, Stainton 1982, p.70, Stainton 1985, p.50, Warrell and Perkins 1988, p.19, Warrell 1993, p.307, Warrell 1994, p.222, and Warrell 2003, p.123.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 8) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.464 no.1367, reproduced.
Not in ibid.; Warrell 2003, fig.233 (colour).
Warrell 2003, p.259.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.423 no.1037, reproduced.
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