Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Grand Canal, Venice, off the Steps of Santa Maria della Salute, with the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) in the Distance


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Crayon, graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 184 × 278 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 23

Catalogue entry

This view departs somewhat from the reality of the view from the Grand Canal just west of the church of Santa Maria della Salute, the north porch of which obtrudes at the right-hand edge, while the porch of the Dogana, about half way towards the centre, is largely obscured in reality from this point by the north side of the building. Meanwhile, the campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) appears to the north-west, its height seemingly exaggerated.
The present loosely worked sheet appears to relate compositionally to the highly finished painting Venice, from the Porch of Madonna della Salute, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1835 (Metropolitan Museum, New York; engraved 1838 as ‘The Grand Canal, Venice’: Tate impression T05787; and again 1859–61: T06341),1 where the portico is more prominent, and the height of the campanile appears even more emphasised. Lindsay Stainton noted that the watercolour ‘closely resembles’ the oil, but suggested that this is ‘coincidental’ given the developing consensus that the Venice grey paper sheets date from 1840.2 The Turner scholar C.F. Bell had annotated Finberg’s 1909 Inventory entry (‘Steps of the Salute, with the Dogana’): ‘Campanile carefully drawn (without scaffolding)’.3 Various drawings and watercolours do clearly show the temporary platforms around the spire in place in 1840 (but not in 1833; see the Introduction to the present tour), but Stainton suggested that the artist ‘could simply have omitted it for aesthetic reasons’.4
Albeit acknowledging the possibility that this sheet may have acted as a ‘rudimentary colour sketch’ to inform the painting, and thus stem from the earlier trip,5 Ian Warrell has noted that the fact that while it, Tate D32207 and D32209 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 22, 24, also in this subsection) apparently ‘set out the compositions of paintings exhibited at the Royal Academy before the 1840 visit’, they ‘could be interpreted as instances of Turner revisiting a subject he had already treated’.6 Which came first in this case remains a moot point, as the numerous differences in the disposition of the shipping, proportions and other details make it clear that the one was not a precise transcription of the other. Compare also Tate D32205 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 20), which echoes a painting exhibited just before the 1833 stay.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.212–13 no.362, pl.367 (colour).
See Stainton 1985, p.51.
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1024.
Stainton 1985, p.51.
See Warrell 2003, p.107.
Ibid., p.21.
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, pp.105–7 under no.59.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ in Warrell 2003, p.258; the six works are individually dated ‘1833 or 1840’ elsewhere in the book; see also pp.21, 90.
See ibid., p.259, section 8.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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