Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, across the Bacino from the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 226 × 300 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVI 11

Catalogue entry

Topographically speaking, this is one of the slightest Venetian views in the present grouping, and was taken by Finberg to represent the campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) looking north across the Bacino from the Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore.1 Without disputing this, Andrew Wilton called it an ‘unusually schematized view ... in which the buildings are a blank strip between the washes of blue and green’, and ‘less atmospheric and more explicitly concerned with composition’ than other Venetian watercolours.2
Ian Warrell has characterised the ‘almost wanton attitude to the specifics of topography, so that the man-made constructions ... float as the intermediate zone in three bands of colour’, albeit suggesting that it is unfinished, ‘a circumstance which has hitherto prevented the correct identification of the scene’ as the island of San Giorgio itself, with its church and campanile, seen to the south-east across the Bacino from the direction of the Hotel Europa3 (the Palazzo Giustinian), where Turner was staying; see the Introduction to this subsection. The church would have been visible both directly from his elevated room (see Tate D32219; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 34) and from the Grand Canal entrance of the hotel.
On close examination, Warrell’s identification is corroborated by the presence of four slight verticals across the pale wash to the right of the tower, corresponding with the engaged columns on San Giorgio’s entrance front below its central dome, as seen frequently in Turner’s pencil sketches; compare also the contemporary colour study, Tate D32165 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 28). Warrell has linked the present sheet with a more finished view north across the Bacino from south-west of the church (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge)4 on similar paper (see the technical notes below): ‘Both share the same palette, most notably for the diluted green of the Lagoon, and they were evidently painted in the same session.’5 He has also noted that the lines beginning to articulate the forms here were added with a pen dipped in watercolour,6 and speculated that had this been taken further the effect could have been similar to that in a view of San Giorgio from the east (also Fitzwilliam Museum),7 with its delicate web of dark red detail.8
See Finberg 1930, p.173.
Wilton 1975, p.146
Warrell 2003, p.198.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.464 no.1362, reproduced.
Warrell 2003, p.198.
See ibid., pp.199, 273.
Wilton 1979, p.464 no.1361, reproduced.
See Warrell 2003, p.204.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1018; see also Wilton 1974, p.154, and Wilton 1975, pp.138, 142, 143, 146 (adding Tate D32153; CCCXVI 16), Wilton 1976, p.148, Wilton 1982, p.60, and Wilton 1983, p.287.
Finberg 1930, p.173.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 4) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Wilton 1979, p.464 no.1362, reproduced.
Ibid., respectively p.464 no.1369, reproduced, p.465 no.1372, reproduced.
See 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.110 under no.63.
Warrell 2003, p.259.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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