Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Piazza, Campanile and Basilica of San Marco (St Mark’s), Venice, from the Atrio of the Palazzo Reale


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 319 × 238 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 26

Catalogue entry

The viewpoint is the ground floor of the former Palazzo Reale, also known as the Ala Napoleonica and now housing the Museo Correr, at the west end of the Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square), looking out from the deep shade of the classical arcade leading from the square to the Calle Larga dell’Ascensione. To the east-north-east, the south side of the square fronted by the Procuratie Nuove is shown in strong afternoon light. The vista centres on the campanile of St Mark’s, with the west front and domes of the Basilica at the far end. As Ian Warrell has noted: ‘Looking through these arches made plain the great height of the tower, the full extent of which cannot readily be contained by the frame the architecture provides.’1
There appear to be silhouetted figures in the opening; assuming they are intended as adults, they are on about half the actual scale of their immediate setting, lending grandeur to the relatively modest archway (an effect the young Turner had sometimes employed even in his cathedral interiors2). Warrell has noted a pencil study from this corner in the 1833 Venice sketchbook (Tate D32011; Turner Bequest CCCXIV 44),3 and observed that such views from enclosed, darkened viewpoints ‘ultimately derived from Canaletto, who had used similar devices in some of his drawings and prints’.4 See for example the upright pendant paintings, Two Views of Piazza San Marco, of about 1756 and 1758 (National Gallery, London).
Compare Tate D32255 (Turner Bequest CCCXIX 7), a smaller horizontal variant on grey-brown paper showing a similar view from a little to the right, looking along the arcade beneath the Procuratie Nuove (just visible on the right here) as well as the square. See also a vertical view through a Gothic archway (D32246; CCCXVIII 27), and another horizontal arcade subject (D32257; CCCXIX 9).5
The present sheet was inadvertently listed twice in Finberg’s 1909 Inventory;6 the first instance, Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 2,7 was assigned the subsequently cancelled Tate accession number D32221.
Warrell 2003, p.126.
See for example Matthew Imms in Ian Warrell ed., Franklin Kelly and others, J.M.W. Turner, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington 2007, p.33.
See Warrell 2003, p.263 note 18.
Ibid., p.126.
Ibid., p.263 note 18.
See Finberg 1930, pp.175, 176, and Warrell 1991, p.41.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1026, as ‘Campanile of St. Mark’s’.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 9) in Warrell 2003, p.259; see also 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.111 under no.64; and Warrell 2003, p.259, sections 10 and 11, for other likely Italian (possibly Fabriano) brown papers.
Ibid., section 9.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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