Frist Center for the Visual Arts (Nashville, USA): The Sea and the Alps: Turner's Quest for the Sublime
The Turner scholar C.F. Bell annotated Finberg’s 1909 Inventory entry (‘“From my Bedroom, Venice,” with Campanile of San Marco in distance’): ‘the three towers in impossible relationship | San Moisè in the middle (scaffolding on Campanile)’.1 Finberg subsequently identified the towers as ‘S. Maurizio, S. Moisè and S. Mark’s, from the Hotel Europa’ (the Palazzo Giustinian), the viewpoint for numerous colour studies in 1840 as discussed in the Introduction to this subsection. In fact, the first tower, although adjacent to the church of San Maurizio,2 is that of Santo Stefano, about 350 metres (a quarter of a mile) west-north-west of Turner’s viewpoint. The smallest of the three, San Moisè looms large here, only about 60 metres to the north-north-west; the Baroque pediment and statues of the church’s west front are seen from street level in the contemporary Venice and Botzen sketchbook (Tate D31810–D31811; Turner Bequest CCCXIII 10a–11).
The iconic campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s), seen in countless pencil studies, stands about 250 metres to the north-east, making the supposed field of view over 130 degrees, only feasible through considerable lateral compression, especially towards the right,3 for the sake of a pleasingly balance composition4 which ‘the eye could just encompass’, as Lindsay Stainton has noted.5 She has observed the presence of scaffolding on the spire as one pointer to 1840 as the date of the study (see the Introduction to the tour), along with the absence of the campanile of Sant’Angelo, a church which stood a little to the north-east of San Stefano (that is, to the right of the left-hand tower here) until its demolition in 1837.6 This was after Turner’s 1833 stay at the hotel, when he had used a single page of the Venice sketchbook (Tate D32116; Turner Bequest CCCXIV 100a) for separate studies of the three towers along with two other cupolas and almost equally elaborate chimneys.7
Andrew Wilton has compared the handling of the subject with that of a view of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore south-east across the Bacino from the hotel (Tate D32165; Turner Bequest CCCXVI 28)8 on similar paper (see the technical notes below); both are suffused with glowing colour and violet shadows.9 While San Giorgio is shown in late afternoon sunlight, the time of day here is likely early morning, albeit with a lack of consistent directional shadows which might confirm Turner’s working from immediate observation. In relation to the artist’s note on the verso, James Hamilton has written: ‘Even at sixty-five he could still be excited like a child on waking up on his first holiday morning – a dawn view of the city and three towers is inscribed happily; “From my Bedroom, Venice.”’10 There are similar notes on the backs of Tate D32179 and D32219 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 42, CCCXVII 34), also showing St Mark’s from within the artist’s room; see also Tate D32254, D35882 and D35949 (Turner Bequest CCCXIX 6, CCCLXIV 43, 106), the last of which shows the tower against a yellow sky with red sunrise clouds.11
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1017.
Finberg’s misconception is followed in Wilton 1975, p.136, Far and others 1977, p.137, Papasatamos and others 1981, p.141, and Wilton 1983, p.233, while Croft-Murray 1963, p.21, suggests ‘the Frari (?)’.
See Wilton 1975, p.137, quoting further MS notes by Bell (British Museum, London) on this point.
See Wilton 1983, p.233.
Stainton 1985, p.56.
Ibid.; see also Upstone 1993, p.36, and Warrell 2003, p.138.
See Warrell 2003, p.138 and fig.142.
Wilton 1975, p.136.
See Upstone 1993, p.36.
Hamilton 1997, p.287; see also Warrell 2003, p.138.
See Warrell 2003, p.138.
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, opposite p.1017.
Albeit 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.81, notes that the Muggeridge family had taken over after 1820, still using the ‘C Ansell’ watermark.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 1) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Not in Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979; Warrell 2003, fig.148 (colour).
Warrell 2003, p.259; see Bower 1999, pp.105–7 under no.59.