Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s), Venice, from the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian) by Moonlight


On loan

ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum (Aarhus, Denmark): Turner Watercolours: Sun is God

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour and gouache on paper
Support: 250 × 319 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 5

Catalogue entry

Dimly silhouetted to the left by the light of a waning crescent moon, the campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) is the only clear landmark beyond the chimney stacks. By comparison with other works and as first proposed by Finberg,1 the viewpoint is the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian), where Turner stayed in 1840 (see the introduction to this subsection), looking either from his room, apparently high up at the north-eastern corner, or the roof above it. The tower is seen through the windows of the room in Tate D32219 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 34). Compare also Tate D32142, D32173, D32179, D32229, D32254, D35882 and D35949 in the present grouping (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 5, 36, 42, CCCXVIII 10, CCCXIX 6, CCCLXIV 43, 106).2 D32142, D32173 and D32254 all include similar chimneys in the foreground, likely on the roof of the adjacent Palazzo Vallaresso Erizzo.
Lindsay Stainton discussed this and other rooftop views in relation to the painting Juliet and her Nurse, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1836 (private collection; engraved in 1842 as ‘St Mark’s Place, Venice’: Tate impression T05188),3 with its view eastwards to the campanile from high above the Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square). Numerous watercolours (often night scenes) now associated with Turner’s 1840 stay in Venice were formerly considered likely preparatory studies and consequently dated prior to the painting; see the Introduction to the present tour.4
Ian Warrell has noticed and interpreted an inconspicuous but significant detail in D32179, a daylight view from this point, where ‘Turner’s sharp eyes lighted on an open window ... through which can be seen a reclining nude, stretched out like an odalisque’; a similar figure is suggested by dashes of warm colour at the bottom centre here.5 For more overt erotic subjects associated with this visit, see the parallel catalogue subsection of interiors and figures. Warrell has contrasted the ‘tranquil moonlight’ here with the flash of lightning illuminating the same scene in D32254.6
See Finberg 1930, p.176.
See also Wilton 1974, pp.156, 157, Wilton 1975, p.137, Stainton 1985, p.61, and Warrell 2003, p.24.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.215–17 no.365, pl.369 (colour).
See Stainton 1985, pp.24, 46, and Warrell 2003, pp.20, 71.
Warrell 2003, p.140; see also p.24.
Warrell 2003, p.140.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 9) in Warrell 2003, p.259; see also see also Peter Bower, Turner’s Later Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1820–1851, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, p.111 under no.64; and Warrell 2003, p.259, sections 10 and 11, for other likely Italian (possibly Fabriano) brown papers.
Ibid., section 9.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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