Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Grand Canal, Venice, near the Palazzi Grimani and Papadopoli, with the Rialto Bridge Beyond


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk, graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 228 × 307 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 26

Catalogue entry

Finberg later annotated his basic 1909 Inventory entry (‘The Rialto’): ‘with P. Grimani, &c. on r. ? study for Mr Brocklebank’s “Shylock.”’ (as discussed below).1 Turner’s viewpoint was about level with the Calle Traghetto Vecchio on the south side of the Grand Canal, looking north-east to the Rialto Bridge and the Fondaco dei Tedeschi at the bend beyond. On the left is the Palazzo Papadopoli, with its twin obelisk finials, with the lower Palazzo Giustiniani Businello to its right.
Above the roofs south of the bridge is the campanile of San Bartolomeo. The tallest of the buildings shown complete on that side is the Palazzo Grimani di San Luca, now Venice’s Appeal Court. Coming forwards below it are the Palazzi Corner Contarini dei Cavalli, Tron and D’Anna Viaro Martinengo Volpi di Misurata, with details of the latter two fading out towards the right-hand edge. The scene is much the same as in a more finished watercolour and gouache view on grey paper (Tate D32212; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 27), likely also from 1840;2 there the focus shifts to the right, with the right foreground in more detail and the Palazzo Papadopoli excluded from the left. The handling in the present variation appears more immediate, suggesting rapid observation of the fall of light and shadow (compare Tate D32149 and D32169; Turner Bequest CCCXVI 12, 32, also in this subsection).
The view evoked various associations for Turner, and is effectively the same that in a detailed pencil study in the 1819 Milan to Venice sketchbook (Tate D14455–D14456; Turner Bequest CLXXV 73, 74). That prospect had been used for a watercolour, The Rialto, Venice (Indianapolis Museum of Art),3 made in 1820 or 1821 for Turner’s friend and patron Walter Fawkes. Its composition echoed that of a watercolour (currently untraced),4 engraved in 1820 for James Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy (Tate impression: T06012) as The Rialto, Venice, based on Hakewill’s own sketch. These works had also informed the upright-format oil painting The Grand Canal, Venice, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1837 (Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California).5 As noted above, Finberg had tentatively linked the present sheet to the painting (featuring Shylock, from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice), although it is now accepted as post-dating the oil, so any intentional similarity would have been retrospective.6
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, opposite p.1025; see also Finberg 1930, p.175.
See Finberg 1930, p.175, and Warrell 2003, pp.151, 264 note 11.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, p.383 no.718, pl.156.
Ibid., p.381 no.700.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.219–20 no.368, pl.373 (colour).
See Warrell 2003, p.151.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.384.
‘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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