The Turner scholar C.F. Bell annotated Finberg’s 1909 Inventory entry (‘Mouth of Grand Canal’): ‘Impossible fantasy with the towers & domes of the Salute on the extreme right’.1 In fact, the arrangement is not impossible, but unusually focused in its selective presentation of a cluster of iconic buildings. From the Bacino just off the Punta della Dogana, the view is south-westwards, admittedly along the Canale della Giudecca rather than the mouth of the Grand Canal (out of sight to the right north of the point), with the south side of the Dogana in the foreground and the Seminario Patriarcale beyond, blocked in with brown, and the smaller of the main domes of Santa Maria della Salute above, flanked by its twin campanili.
The loose grid in the right foreground suggests the Dogana’s heavily rusticated porch. Compare for example a pencil drawing from a little further off in the 1819 Milan to Venice sketchbook (Tate D14438; Turner Bequest CLXXV 64a), showing the wider context, as does D32174 (CCCXVI 37), an 1840 colour study from north of the Dogana, with similar evening colours and loose handling. Compare also two pages from the contemporary Grand Canal and Giudecca sketchbook (Tate D32130, D32133; Turner Bequest CCCXV 14, 17), with the Salute and Dogana against a pale yellow sunset sky.
Andrew Wilton compared the ‘almost identical palette’ of other waterfront scenes in that book, such as Tate D33120 and D32126–D32128 (Turner Bequest CCCXV 4, 10–12),2 and the use of ‘blurred washes of yellow and pink’ in D32175 (CCCXVI 38).3 Ian Warrell has noted ‘Turner’s fondness for these moorings at the eastern end of the Giudecca canal’ as shown in other colour studies such as D32174, and also D32147, D32170 and D32172 (CCCXVI 10, 33, 35) showing the surroundings as they changed through the day, in this case in ‘softer fading light of the late afternoon, as it caught the highest tips of the Salute’.4
Without further elaboration, in 1881 John Ruskin categorised this work among twenty-five Turner Bequest subjects ‘chiefly in Venice. Late time, extravagant, and showing some of the painter’s worst and final faults; but also, some of his peculiar gifts in a supreme degree.’5
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 2) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.463 no.1356, reproduced.
Ibid., p.464 no.1365.
Warrell 2003, p.259.