Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Lagoon near Venice: ?Early Morning

1840

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 248 × 307 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D36190
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 332

Catalogue entry

This study of open water lacks clear topographical indications as to its setting, and Finberg tentatively linked it in his 1909 Inventory entry to Turner’s Alpine tours of 1841–4, calling it ‘A Swiss lake (?)’, albeit subsequently annotating the entry: ‘? Venice in distance’.1 Its paper is similar to that used for many more readily identifiable views associated with Turner’s 1840 visit to the city (see the technical notes below). A series of rather perfunctory dabs in same pale local colour as the greyish band at the horizon to the left was possibly intended to mark generic domes and towers; Leo Costello has characterised Venice’s inconspicuous distance or effective absence here as perhaps evoking ‘a “recession from history”’ itself.2
Ian Warrell has noted the ‘briny jade colour Turner habitually adopted for the waters around Venice’, as evident also in a sunset view, Tate D32162 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 25), which may show ‘the same setting under altered conditions’.3 He has discussed several of the Lagoon scenes at different times of day in relation to Turner’s interest in Goethe’s colour theory4 (see the Introduction to this subsection).
Though the sun is not shown directly, it seems to be implied behind the luminous clouds above the horizon towards the left, below which a vertical area has been washed out from the green sea to suggest its reflected light. The colours, fresher and cooler than in D32162, would seem to indicate the early morning; compare the more pronounced effect in one of Turner’s luminous 1819 Venice watercolours (Tate D15254; Turner Bequest CLXXXI 4).
1
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.91.
2
Costello 2012, p.168.
3
Warrell 2003, p.236.
4
See also ibid., p.235.
Technical notes:
There are irregular closed tears and creases at the bottom right.
This is one of numerous 1840 Venice works Ian Warrell has noted as on sheets of ‘white paper produced [under the name] Charles Ansell,1 each measuring around 24 x 30 cm, several watermarked with the date “1828”’:2 Tate D32138–D32139, D32141–D32143, D32145–D32147, D32154–D32163, D32167–D32168, D32170–D32177, D35980, D36190 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 1, 2, 4–6, 8–10, 17–26, 30, 31, 33–40, CCCLXIV 137, 332). Warrell has also observed that The Doge’s Palace and Piazzetta, Venice (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin)3 and Venice: The New Moon (currently untraced)4 ‘may belong to this group’.5
1
Albeit 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.81, notes that the Muggeridge family had taken over after 1820, still using the ‘C Ansell’ watermark.
2
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 2) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
3
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.463 no.1356, reproduced.
4
Ibid., p.464 no.1365.
5
Warrell 2003, p.259.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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