The view is eastwards from the south side of the broad Canale della Giudecca, off what Ian Warrell has identified as ‘the shell of the deconsecrated church of Santi Biagio e Cataldo’ in the right foreground; Tate D32129 (Turner Bequest CCCXV 13), a view to the west in this sketchbook, shows the same building on the left.1 Before the development of the Sacca Fisola island across the Canale dei Lauranesi, what is now the east bank of the canal was the waterfront at the blunt western end of the Isola della Giudecca, with the open waters of the Lagoon beyond.2 The Fondamenta San Biagio runs around the north-western tip of the Giudecca, and the first canal traversing it is the Rio di San Biagio; old maps show the convent of Santi Biagio e Cataldo on the west side of the latter, looking north over the main channel, and it is shown in engravings and paintings with the shallow pitched roof of its plain church beside the quay. It had been supressed in 1810, becoming much depleted before its demolition around 18823 to make way for the substantial Molino Stucky mill and factory complex4 (now a hotel).
The church is noted as ‘St Biagio’ on a page of Giudecca sketches in the 1840 Venice and Botzen sketchbook (Tate D31823; Turner Bequest CCCXIII 17), and there is what seems to be a two-part panorama of a similar view, including the building in the right foreground, in the same book (D31854; CCCXIII 33). Compare also one of the buildings on a page of fragmentary waterfront studies in the Venice; Passau to Würzburg sketchbook (Tate D31292; Turner Bequest CCCX 8a).
Discussing the painting Venice – Sunset, a Fisher, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1845 (Tate N00542),5 which may show elements of a similar view, Warrell suggested that it was ‘entirely possible that he was playing with motifs recorded in his sketchbooks and reassembling them in arrangements that suited his own fancy’, noting a ‘similar divergence between Turner’s informal graphic work and its public expression’6 here. The topography seems fluid, with what appear to be the campanile of San Marco and the two unequal domes of Santa Maria della Salute either side of the nearer tower on the left, the slim campanile of San Giorgio Maggiore at the centre, and the domes of the Zitelle and the Redentore along the Giudecca on the right. However, from the notional viewpoint off the lost convent, the Salute is hidden by the Gesuati church, with its less monumental dome and long nave flanked by twin campanili. The background may be informed by a similarly atmospheric view in this sketchbook (D32127; CCCXV 11), taken from further east, south of the Gesuati, where the Salute seems to be in relatively accurate juxtaposition with the other churches, albeit the panorama is greatly compressed. Warrell has linked the two colour studies including the convent with two others in this book, perhaps showing the waterfront around Santa Marta (D32125–D32126; CCCXV 9, 10), on the north side of this then relatively quiet western end of the Giudecca canal, since much developed with consequent complications in identifying the settings.7
Warrell 2003, p.194; see also p.188.
See maps of 1797 and 1849, in Stainton 1985, p. and Warrell 2003, fig.1 respectively; see also Warrell 2003, p.194.
See Jeff Cotton, ‘Santi Biagio e Cataldo’, The Churches of Venice, accessed 16 July 2018, https://www
.churchesofvenice. .co .uk /demolished .htm #santib &c
See Warrell 2003, p.188.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.264 no.419, pl.423.
Gage 1969, p.39.
See Sam Smiles, ‘Open air, work in’, in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, pp.205–7.
Wilton 1975, p.139; see also p.142.
Stainton 1985, p.55.
Warrell 2003, p.194.
Butlin 1962, p.66.
Upstone 1993, p.36.
Warrell 1995, p.113.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, pp.214–15.