Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Grand Canal, Venice, with the Rialto Bridge and Palazzo dei Camerlenghi to the South


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 221 × 320 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXV 3

Catalogue entry

The view, in watercolour over loose pencil outlines, is south from near the Ca’ da Mosto on the east side of the Grand Canal, possibly with a slight indication of the Palazzo Civran in the immediate foreground on the left. The Fondaco dei Tedeschi rises above the moored boats, with the campanile of San Bartolomeo beyond above the south-eastern end of the Rialto Bridge. At the sharp bend to the right of the latter is the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi, with the Fabbriche Vecchie beside it, fronting the Erberia where the canal runs north-west.
The vista is effectively continued in that direction on a separate sheet of pale buff paper (Tate D32149; Turner Bequest CCCXVI 12), and also (possibly from a viewpoint a little to the north-west) on another page of this sketchbook (D32132; CCCXV 16); Ian Warrell has suggested that Turner worked on the latter and the present page ‘concurrently, maximising his time by alternating between them to allow his washes to dry’.1 There is a comparable pencil sketch, perhaps from slightly further north, in the 1840 Venice; Passau to Würzburg sketchbook (Tate D31304; Turner Bequest CCCX 14a).
The contemporary watercolour The Rialto Bridge from the North (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh),2 on pale buff paper like that of D32149, shows the same view as in the present work.3 Although the sheets of similar sizes, Turner increased the scale of the principal features in the Edinburgh version, omitting about a sixth of the present view at each side, thus bringing the composition into more detailed focus. The fall of afternoon light, with the bridge in shadow and the upper left corner of the Camerlenghi illuminated, is directly comparable.
The scene, with its elements of monumental architecture and off-kilter angles, was long familiar to Turner. See the detailed pencil drawings in the 1819 Milan to Venice sketchbook (Tate D14463, D14473–D14474; Turner Bequest CLXXV 77a, 82a–83), which had informed the nocturnal vignette watercolour Venice (The Rialto – Moonlight) of about 1830–2 (Tate D27713; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 196);4 see also D27625; CCLXXX 108), engraved for Samuel Rogers’s Poems of 1834 (Tate impression: T06645).
Warrell 2003, p.151.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.464 no.1369, reproduced.
See Warrell 1993, p.306, and Warrell 1994, p.214.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.442 no.1190, reproduced.
See Warrell 1995, p.108.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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