Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Grand Canal, Venice, near the Palazzo Grimani, with the Rialto Bridge Beyond


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pencil and watercolour on paper
Support: 195 × 282 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 27

Catalogue entry

Turner’s viewpoint here was about level with the Calle Traghetto Vecchio on the south side of the Grand Canal, looking north-east to the Rialto Bridge, with the Fondaco dei Tedeschi at the bend beyond it. Above the roofs on its right is the campanile of San Bartolomeo. The tallest of the buildings shown complete on the right is the Palazzo Grimani di San Luca, now Venice’s Appeal Court. Coming forwards below it are the Palazzi Corner Contarini dei Cavalli and Tron, fading out towards the right. The scene is much the same as in a more spontaneous, less deliberately composed watercolour view on buff paper (Tate D32211; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 26);1 there the focus shifts to the left, with the right foreground in less detail and the Palazzo Papadopoli introduced on the left.
The view evoked various associations for Turner,2 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
Finberg tentatively linked the present sheet to the 1837 work.6 Along with the majority of Turner’s Venice watercolours, it is now considered likely to post-date the painting, so any conscious similarity would have been retrospective.7 Cecilia Powell has compared the accents of yellow here with the ‘sunburst of gold’ in a study of Burg Bischofstein on the River Mosel, firmly dated to the 1840 tour (Tate D28966; Turner Bequest CCXCII 19),8 which adds to the circumstantial case; there has been debate about whether some of the other Venice views on grey paper might be earlier (see Tate D32205–D32210; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 20–25).
See Finberg 1930, p.175, and Warrell 2003, pp.151, 264 note 11.
See Stainton 1985, p.52, Warrell 1995, p.108, and Warrell 2003, p.74.
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 Finberg 1930, p.175.
Stainton 1985, p.51, dates the sheet ‘1840?’ (albeit in common with many others now accepted as executed in that year); see Warrell 2003, p.151, for slight reservations in this case as against a firm dating to 1840 in most instances, and p.272 for his dating of ‘c.1840’.
Powell 1995, p.153.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.384.
Stainton 1985, p.51.
Warrell 2003, p.272.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 8) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Wilton 1979, p.464 no.1367, reproduced.
Not in ibid.; Warrell 2003, fig.233 (colour).
Warrell 2003, p.259.
Wilton 1979, p.423 no.1037, reproduced.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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