Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Molo and Piazzetta, Venice, from the Bacino, with the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s), and Santa Maria della Salute in the Distance


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 193 × 279 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 1

Catalogue entry

This view, laterally truncated and simplified for pictorial effect, is supposedly from the Bacino just south of the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), looking north-west to the campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) from close to the Molo quay, judging by the relative proportions of the palace and the two columns at the entrance to the Piazzetta. The tower would be on the diagonal from such an angle, and the palace appears proportionately too large, even allowing for its nearness. As Ian Warrell has observed:
From this study it is only just possible to determine that there is an arcade at ground level, above which sits a highly decorated gallery, with quatrefoil openings set into the spaces between ogee arches. The use of white paint, however, nicely differentiates the marble of these two levels from the warmer colours of the upper walls ...1
A more specific detail is the Austrian sentry box silhouetted at the corner of the palace, seen again in a contemporary night-time view of the Piazzetta.2 Beyond the columns, the Libreria Sansoviniana and the Zecca are compressed, and the whole waterfront running west to the entrance of the Grand Canal is effectively omitted in order to include the domes of the Salute to the south-south-east at the far left.3
Compare the more accurate if selectively detailed pencil study in the contemporary Venice and Botzen sketchbook (Tate D31801; Turner Bequest CCCXIII 6), which does not extend beyond the Zecca. See also a finished contemporary watercolour on white paper, The Doge’s Palace and the Piazzetta (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin),4 encompassing a similar view with the space again compressed to include the Salute. Warrell has also noted a fortuitous similarity with the composition of an unfinished oil painting, Venice, the Piazzetta with the Ceremony of the Doge Marrying the Sea of about 1835 (Tate N04446).5
This sheet was inadvertently listed twice in Finberg’s 1909 Inventory;6 the second instance, Turner Bequest CCCXVII 33,7 was assigned the subsequently cancelled Tate accession number D32218.
Warrell 2003, p.119.
See ibid.
See ibid.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.463 no.1356, reproduced.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.296 no.501, pl.510 (colour); see Warrell 2003, p.119.
See Finberg 1930, p.175, and Warrell 1991, p.41.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1026, as ‘Piazzetta’.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 8) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.464 no.1367, reproduced.
Not in ibid.; Warrell 2003, fig.233 (colour).
Warrell 2003, p.259.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.423 no.1037, reproduced.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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