Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Dogana and Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Lit by a Rocket, across the Grand Canal from the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian) at Night


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour and bodycolour on paper
Support: 240 × 315 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 29

Catalogue entry

From a viewpoint around the Traghetto del Ridotto or the front of the adjacent Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian), the Baroque domes of Santa Maria della Salute are shown to the south-west across the entrance to the Grand Canal, with the Seminario Patriarcale to their immediate left and the low north side of the Dogana terminating in its porch at the left. This is a study in chiaroscuro, with the pale stone and brick-built Dogana in silhouette against the night sky (only relieved by three yellow twinkles of light and their reflections), contrasted with the sudden, lurid brightness of the domes in the glare from the arcing trail of an ascending rocket. Below, a passing gondola is backlit on the canal, while the pale form of what appears to be a balustraded balcony frames the right foreground. Timothy Wilcox has characterised the ‘many degrees of darkness all throw into relief’ by the ‘flash of the rocket’,1 and Martin Butlin has compared the effect with that of the raw, jagged zig-zag in the more finished contemporary watercolour Lightning in the Piazzetta (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh);2 compare also Tate D32254 (Turner Bequest CCCXIX 6) in the present grouping.
The balustrade detail likely implies an elevated viewpoint within the hotel itself, where Turner was staying; see the introduction to this subsection. Compare the pencil studies of the Dogana and Salute from much the same angle in the contemporary Venice and Botzen sketchbook (Tate D31830; Turner Bequest CCCXIII 20a), inscribed ‘Balcony of the Europa’; see also D32296 (CCCXX 17a) in the 1840 Rotterdam to Venice book. Of three closely related, if relatively muted night views, Tate D32232 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 13) shows much the same prospect from the waterfront, and D32230 (CCCXVIII 11) focuses on the church, its domes silhouetted against a crescent moon, while D32238 (CCCXVIII 19) shows the view over the Bacino east of the Dogana’s porch; all are framed by the hotel at one side or the other.3 See also D32249 and D33883 (CCCXIX 1, CCCXLI 183), variations in brighter ambient light.
Wilcox 1990, p.34.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.463 no.1352, reproduced; see Butlin 1962, p.52.
See also Warrell 2003, p.132.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.215–17 no.365, pl.369 (colour).
See Stainton 1985, pp.24, 46, and Warrell 2003, pp.20, 71; see also Butlin 1960, pp.11, 52, Stainton 1982, p.72, Wilcox 1990, p.34, and Lyles 1992, p.69.
Warrell 2003, p.132.
Warrell 2003, p.131; see ibid., p.264 note 8.
Butlin 1962, p.52; see complementary remarks in Stainton 1985, p.50.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 9) in Warrell 2003, p.259; see also see also 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.111 under no.64; and Warrell 2003, p.259, sections 10 and 11, for other likely Italian (possibly Fabriano) brown papers.
Ibid., section 9.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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