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.
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