Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Grand Canal, Venice, towards the Palazzi Pisani Moretta and Barbarigo, from near the Palazzo Grimani


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite, watercolour, bodycolour and pen and ink on paper
Support: 191 × 281 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 28

Catalogue entry

Long considered a view of the ‘Grand Canal (above the Rialto)’,1 this scene was tentatively and plausibly identified by Lindsay Stainton as ‘looking across the Grand Canal from the corner of the quay between the Pescheria and the Palazzo Brandolin towards the Ca’d’Oro (on the extreme right)’,2 north-west of the Rialto Bridge and bend. In fact, as Ian Warrell established,3 the subject is elsewhere, albeit not far away; the viewpoint is instead south-west of the bridge, looking west along the canal from its south side. To the right of centre opposite are the adjoining Palazzo Pisani Moretta and Barbarigo della Terrazza, the latter distinguished by its distinctively low wing at the entrance to the Rio di San Polo. Compare the more detailed pencil studies in the 1819 Milan to Venice sketchbook (Tate D14454; Turner Bequest CLXXV 72a) and the 1833 Venice book (Tate D32085; Turner Bequest CCCXIV 84a).4
There seem to be slight indication of the pitched roof of the Palazzo Balbi in the distance towards the left before the canal turns sharply out of sight to the south. The highest building in the generalised run of palaces on the left is apparently the Palazzo Grimani, seen from various angles elsewhere in this subsection.
Without further elaboration, in 1881 John Ruskin categorised this work among twenty-five Turner Bequest subjects ‘chiefly in Venice. Late time, extravagant, and showing some of the painter’s worst and final faults; but also, some of his peculiar gifts in a supreme degree.’5 In an unpublished catalogue of 1880 he included it as one of a smaller ‘Glorious grey [paper] group’.6 Robert Upstone has characterised the ‘restricted palette of blue, red, black and white’ as producing ‘a harmonious colour structure of great beauty’.7 In discussing a technically similar 1840 river view of Regensburg (Tate D36151; Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 294), Cecilia Powell remarked that its ‘colouring, style and technique ... have much in common with those of Turner’s grey paper drawings of Venice of a fortnight or so earlier’ (giving the present sheet as an example), with the ‘juxtaposition of different blues, purples and muted reds and the use of vigorous penwork in a variety of inks for foreground details’.8
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.625; see also Finberg 1909, II, p.1025, and subsequent sources.
Stainton 1985, p.52; see also Upstone 1993, p.38.
See Warrell 2003, pp.158, 161.
As noted in Warrell 2003, pp.158, 264 note 17.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.384.
See ibid., footnote 1.
Upstone 1993, p.38.
Powell 1995, p.166.
Upstone 1993, p.38; see also Powell 19995, p.166.
Warrell 2003, p.272.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 8) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.464 no.1367, reproduced.
Not in ibid.; Warrell 2003, fig.233 (colour).
Warrell 2003, p.259.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.423 no.1037, reproduced.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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