The Turner scholar C.F. Bell annotated Finberg’s basic 1909 Inventory entry (‘Grand Canal’): ‘from the Rialto Cà Grimani on the left’.1 The view is to the east-south-east, with little differentiation between the various palace façades except for the looming bulk of the Palazzo Grimani on the left; in the foreground at the far right is the Palazzo Papadopoli, with cargo boats moored below. Although the tones and colours of the washes are disrupted by the darkening of the buff paper (see the technical notes below), the light appears to come from behind the viewer, suggesting a morning scene.
A similar San Silvestro viewpoint was adopted for a better-preserved variation on white paper in the contemporary Grand Canal and Giudecca sketchbook (Tate D32137; Turner Bequest CCCXV 21), where the Palazzo Grimani is conspicuous again (Tate D32123; Turner Bequest CCCXV 7), as it is elsewhere in the present subsection;2 compare particularly Tate D32211 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 26), on similar paper, looking in the opposite direction.
Loose pencil work underlies the rapidly applied washes. The paper has darkened considerably owing to prolonged early display, except where a mount protected the edges; this is particularly noticeable on the right, where a wider strip was covered and the blue of the sky retains its brightness. There is also scattered spotting.
This is one of a few 1840 Venice works Ian Warrell has noted as on ‘Pale buff wove paper, produced by an unknown maker, with the watermark: “J W”’:1 Tate D32148–D32149, D32169, D32211, D32219, D32247 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 11, 12, 32, CCCXVII 26, 34, CCCXVIII 28); see also Venice from the Lagoon (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge),2 and The Rialto, Venice and The Palazzo Balbi on the Grand Canal, Venice (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh).3 Warrell has noted paper conservator Peter Bower’s suggestion ‘that this type of paper was a deliberate forgery of Whatman paper and was possibly produced in Austria’,4 and that the ‘inferior quality has resulted in visible changes to the paper, which is especially prone to fading’.5
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 4) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 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.