Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Grand Canal, Venice, from the Traghetto di San Felise, with the Ca’ Corner della Regina and Ca’ Pesaro


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 222 × 324 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXV 19

Catalogue entry

Looking north-west to where the Grand Canal bears westwards after the sharp Rialto bend, the imposing classical façades of the Ca’ Corner della Regina and the Ca’ Pesaro are seen on the left with the smaller Palazzi Correggio and Donà somewhat condensed between them. There is little to indicate the largest palace in the distance on the north side, the Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, although the grey blocked-in shape above the boats may represent its near side.
The bulky building washed in a warm ochre in the immediate foreground is likely the Palazzo Fonatana Rezzonico, with the entrance to the Rio di San Felice beyond. The effect is of pearly afternoon light from the left. Compare the view from further south in another colour study in this sketchbook (Tate D32132; Turner Bequest CCCXV 16); see also a detailed pencil study from nearer the Ca’ Pesaro in the 1819 Milan to Venice sketchbook (Tate D14420; Turner Bequest CLXXV 55a).
John Gage observed that among the various modes employed in the present book, D32134–D32137 (CCCXV 18–21) ‘are in a muted range of greens and browns which seem to come from a direct experience of the subject’, whereas D32127–D32130 (CCCXV 11–14) ‘have a far more complex technique and brilliant colouring; which suggests that perhaps both modes were used interchangeably for indoor work.’1 This is symptomatic of the general issue of Turner’s direct use of colour outdoors, generally a moot point in his Venice work as it is for many other subjects, however immediate their effect.2 In relation to various 1840 Venice subjects, Andrew Wilton has suggested that ‘it is difficult to determine whether pencil or colour was applied first. Each is dependent on the other in the representation of the view and would be incomprehensible alone’; he noted that in this case ‘pencil has been added to a watercolour sketch in the interest of sharper definition of a few details.’3
Ian Warrell has linked this view with another from this sketchbook, looking south-eastwards towards the Rialto from about the same position to form a ‘panoramic survey’ (Tate D32178; Turner Bequest CCCXVI 41); they share ‘pallid greys and greens, which lend an insubstantiality to the architecture’, suggesting that Turner worked on them ‘concurrently, maximising his time by alternating between them to allow his washes to dry.’4 In this instance the artist introduced sharply contrasting tonal accents with the stark silhouettes of the jetty and boats near the right foreground, his customary means of establishing pictorial depth across the glassy water as he developed these studies to varying degrees; compare for example D33121 or D32129 (CCCXV 5, 13) in the present book.
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.147; see also p.148.
Warrell 2003, pp.150, 151.
See Warrell 1995, p.108.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like

In the shop