Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) and the Columns at the Entrance to the Piazzetta, Venice, from the Molo

1840

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 89 × 149 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D32414
Turner Bequest CCCXX 77 a

Catalogue entry

The drawing was made with the page turned horizontally. Finberg later annotated his 1909 Inventory entry (‘The Doge’s Palace and Piazzetta, Venice’): ‘Looking from Molo twds. Public Gardens’.1 The latter are a long way off to the south-east, but Finberg’s note serves to imply the orientation of this view from outside the south-eastern corner of the Libreria Sansoviniana, looking east along the Molo to the Riva degli Schiavoni waterfront with the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) on the left and the steps of the Ponte degli Paglia beyond it. There is a striped Austrian sentry box towards the bottom left; compare a contemporary watercolour study (Tate D32220; Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 1).
The positioning of the two columns at the entrance to the Piazzetta is something of a pictorial compromise. Turner’s viewpoint would have been immediately adjacent to the nearest, whereas he depicts them both in relatively conventional perspective, albeit being somewhat hazy about where they meet the Molo at their bases, and leaving a gap between the upper and lower stages of the right-hand one. Compare the similarly unresolved treatment in a study from nearby in the 1819 Milan to Venice sketchbook (Tate D14402; Turner Bequest CLXXV 46a).
The immediate area features in many 1819, 1833 and 1840 sketches, including subsequent pages of this sketchbook; see folios 79 verso–82 verso (D32418–D32424). The present view perhaps informed the dramatic contemporary watercolour Lightning in the Piazzetta (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh),2 where the steep recession of the right-hand half corresponds to the left-hand half here, albeit the view is widened to include the library in the left foreground, with the columns shown left and right of centre as if from nearer the waterfront.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

1
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, opposite p.1032; see also Finberg 1930, p.170.
2
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.463 no.1352, reproduced.

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