The prospect, from a viewpoint on or beside the Fondamenta della Croce on the Isola della Giudecca, half-way between the Redentore and the Zitelle, ranges north and north-east, as inferred from the relative angles of features of Santa Maria della Salute and San Giorgio Maggiore, framing the view at the left and right respectively. The space between is severely laterally compressed by a factor of about three: the south side of the Dogana alone would occupy most of the width of the sheet if shown correctly proportioned, with the campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) outside its right-hand edge. In reality the campanile is seen on a diagonal from this angle. The vantage point was long familiar; see for example the 1819 Venice to Ancona sketchbook (Tate D14523; Turner Bequest CLXXVI 19).
The compression presumably accounts for the lack of detail along the far waterfront, with only the slightest indications of the domes of the Basilica and a vague blank area at the centre corresponding with the Molo frontage of the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace). There are hints of a distant cluster of domes and campanili before San Giorgio comes into view on the diagonal to the north-east. All of these factors make this work more of a pictorial invention or accommodation than an accurate transcription. Lindsay Stainton has noted a ‘degree of generalisation suggesting that it was drawn from memory.’1
Finberg later annotated his 1909 Inventory entry: ‘Scaffolding on cuspida of campanile’.2 This likely follows Turner scholar C.F. Bell’s wording in his own copy: ‘Scaffolding on cuspide of campanile’.3 The presence of bands across the spire, indicating platforms for renovation work, is a key point in dating such views to the 1840 visit; see the Introduction to the tour.
A very similar view is presented in similarly limpid tones and even less detail in Tate D32145 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 8). Ian Warrell has noted the differences in the direction of their lighting, from the left to suggest afternoon or evening in the present case, and from the right in the other, in a morning effect which likely informed the oil painting Ducal Palace, Dogano, with part of San Georgio, Venice, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1841 (Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio).4
Stainton 1985, p.57.
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, opposite p.1017.
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1017; see also Stainton 1985, p.57, for Bell’s similar notes elsewhere.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.240–1 no.390, pl.394 (colour); see Warrell 2003, p.181.
Finberg 1930, pp.122, 125.
Stainton 1985, p.57.
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.