Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Grand Canal, Venice, with the Rialto Bridge to the East and the Campanile of San Bartolomeo Beyond

1840

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 220 × 319 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D32118
Turner Bequest CCCXV 2

Catalogue entry

The Grand Canal is shown from its north side at San Silvestro, looking east-north-east to the Rialto Bridge and the loosely indicated campanile of San Bartolomeo.1 To the left is the Fondamenta del Vin, while the Fondaco dei Tedeschi terminates the view beyond the bridge. On the waterfront opposite the classical and Gothic arches of the Palazzi Dolfin-Manin and Bembo respectively2 are much simplified, suggesting that Turner was working rapidly with the brush on the spot. The scene was long familiar to him from similar viewpoints; compare for example a loose pencil study in the 1819 Milan to Venice sketchbook (Tate D14467; Turner Bequest CLXXV 79a).
The pencil work is very slight, and forms are otherwise ‘drawn’ with the brush. The freely modelled darker forms of the foreground boats were applied without much water and have not disturbed the underlying wash, and were possibly introduced subsequently, although the play of light and shadow from the right across the south-west front of the bridge suggests the sunlight around midday with an immediacy that may indicate much of the colour was applied at the scene. As the curator D. Kighley Baxandall observed: ‘Only through such intense knowledge of the forms he is suggesting could he so successfully evoke a gondola with two crooked brush-strokes’.3
The sketchbook includes a view in the opposite direction from the same point (Tate D32137; Turner Bequest CCCXV 21), and Ian Warrell has described the two technically similar, sketchy but assured works as ‘a pair’.4 Another page is D32119 (CCCXV 3), showing the other side of the bridge from the north. Warrell has noted them among about half the views associated with this book 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 (CCCXV 1, 2, 3, 7, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21).5 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.
1
See Stainton 1985, p.54.
2
See Warrell 2003, p.151.
3
Baxandall 1935, p.10; see also Stainton 1985, p.54.
4
Warrell 2003, p.151.
5
See Warrell 1995, p.108.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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