Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Grand Canal, Venice, with the Palazzo Grimani


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 222 × 320 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXV 21

Catalogue entry

The view is east-south-eastwards along the Grand Canal west of the Rialto. Although the buildings are relatively casually rendered, what details there are correspond closely with reality.1 Towards the left is the prominent Palazzo Grimani, and there are slight indications of the twin obelisks of the Palazzo Papadopoli near the right foreground. The canal front of the Grimani and the palaces beyond are in shadow, with its east front sunlit to suggest morning light. Ian Warrell has noted the ‘grey canopies’ of the Albergo Leon Bianco2 (the Palazzo Cavalli) below to the left, where Turner had stayed in 1819 on his first visit; see Tate D14407 (Turner Bequest CLXXV 49) in that year’s Milan to Venice sketchbook.
Tate D32169 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 32),3 a somewhat faded contemporary colour study on pale buff paper, is a more provisional variant of much the same scene. This sketchbook includes a similarly loose but atmospheric view in the opposite direction from about the same San Silvestro viewpoint, past various boats towards the Rialto Bridge (Tate D32118; Turner Bequest CCCXV 2),4 while D32123 (CCCXV 7) includes a frontal view of the Grimani.
The palaces in the present view form a backdrop to the group of boats moored towards the right. One shows a painted sail, likely strongly coloured with traditional pseudo-heraldic devices including a sunburst, albeit outlined here largely in perfunctory grey; compare the more detailed study of fishing boats on the Bacino in the contemporary watercolour The Sun of Venice: Bragozzi Moored off the Riva degli Schiavoni (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh),5 and the subsequent oil painting The Sun of Venice going to Sea, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1843 (Tate N00535).6 The characteristic leaning stance of a gondolier is evoked in a couple of calligraphic strokes towards the right; compare the similar effect in Tate D32174 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 37).
Ian Warrell has noted this page as among about half the views associated with this sketchbook depicting the ‘long canyon of palaces’ winding north and south of the Rialto Bridge along the ‘central part’ of the Grand Canal: D32117–D32119, D32123, D32131, D32132, D32134–D32137 (Turner Bequest CCCXV 1, 2, 3, 7, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21).7 See also D32121, D32122 and D32124 (CCCXV 5, 6, 8), showing scenes near its north-west and south-east ends, and D32178 (CCCXVI 41), a central subject now also linked to the book. For sites beyond the Grand Canal, see the sketchbook’s Introduction.
See Warrell 2003, p.151.
Ibid., p.151.
Ibid., p.264 note 10.
See also ibid., p.151.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.465 no.1374, pl.233.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.250–2 no.402, pl.408 (colour); see Warrell 2003, p.151.
See Warrell 1995, p.108.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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