Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Island and Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, with Monks in a Boat; the North Side of the Church

1840

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 123 × 173 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D31832
Turner Bequest CCCXIII 21 a

Catalogue entry

Finberg later annotated his unspecific 1909 Inventory entry (‘Church, Campanile, &c., with boats’): ‘S. Giorgio’.1 The Turner scholar C.F. Bell similarly marked another copy: ‘San Giorgio’.2 The view, drawn horizontally, is indeed of San Giorgio Maggiore, on the island of the same name. Its main axis runs west-north-west to east-south-east, with the upper view here centred on the classical entrance portico at its west end, facing the Bacino, seen to the south from off one of the island’s two harbour lighthouses.
A boatload of monks is passing, as drawn and annotated by Turner, ‘with w[hite] hoods’, although a short earlier adjective beginning with ‘B’, is less clear; it might indicate ‘Brown’ habits, or the ‘Ben[edictine]’ order of the island’s monastery. A contemporary view of churches along the nearby Canale della Giudecca apparently includes notes of other religious orders (Tate D32146; Turner Bequest CCCXVI 9).
Below is a less detailed elevation of the north side of the church, the base of the campanile and the three rounded gables of the building immediately to its north-east. This possibly informed a loose, atmospheric watercolour of the church from that direction (Tate D32161; Turner Bequest CCCXVI 24).3
The upper stages and spire of the campanile beyond are continued from the gutter on folio 20 verso (D31830); finding that the rest of the corresponding side of that page was already taken up with sketches, Turner would have rolled the fore-edge of the present leaf right back to align the two parts of the drawing.
1
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, opposite p.1010.
2
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1010.
3
See Warrell 2003, pp.204, 264 note 17.
Technical notes:
There is a slight but definite crease about half way down the page, parallel with the gutter and fore-edge; this presumably occurred when Turner briefly pushed the page back to continue the drawing on the previous leaf, as discussed above.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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