Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Piazzetta, Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) and New Prisons from the Bacino, Venice, with Moored Boats


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 245 × 310 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVI 34

Catalogue entry

The view is from the Bacino, off the Molo south of the entrance to the Piazzetta on the left, with the column of St Mark aligned with the west front of the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), and the domes of the Basilica lightly indicated beyond. To the right are the New Prisons, and then the Riva degli Schiavoni running east without further identifiable buildings.
Compare the colour and atmosphere, and crowded boats, of a more developed contemporary study, Tate D32154 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 17), an evening scene from a little closer in and looking further east; the effect of warm and cool banded colours is also seen for example in D32155, D32156 and D32172 (CCCXVI 18, 19, 35) in this grouping.
Ian Warrell has compared the composition and effect here with a hazy, unfinished oil painting, Riva degli Schiavoni, Venice: Water Fete, of about 1843–5 (Tate N04661).1 See also some of the lightly rendered watercolour studies of boats and distant waterfronts showing the 1844 arrival of Louis-Philippe at Portsmouth Harbour, such as Tate D35888 or D35957 (Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 48, 114).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.297 no.507, as c.1845, pl.508 (colour); see Warrell 2003, pp.222, 265 note 24.
Technical notes:
The sheet is somewhat darkened at the centre from early display, with fresher paper and colour evident at the edges where they were protected by a mount – or rather mounts, as concentric strips of intermediate fading evident around the sky suggest that window mounts with two distinct apertures were used for prolonged periods.
Lindsay Stainton has noted that Turner’s ‘ability to develop a pictorial composition with colour and tone rather than solid form is illustrated in this schematic watercolour ... creating an effect of space through the juxtaposition of washes of colour without relying on traditional procedures for drawing perspective’, the architecture being articulated with ‘the merest flicker of pen and red ink’,1 as she described it, although it is often a moot point as the whether such details were added in ink or watercolour, with a pen or the point of a fine brush.
Three curving diagonal depressions or creases are evident in the centre of the foreground, where the swiftly applied, broad washes used for the water left the lowest parts bare. Turner seems to have instinctively exploited this adventitious rippled effect by adding darker reflections around these points in loose zig-zag strokes. Compare another waterfront study, Tate D32174 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 37), where matching ‘faults’ are evident. The sheets are of the same type, as outlined below.
Stainton 1985, p.59.
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.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 2) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.463 no.1356, reproduced.
Ibid., p.464 no.1365.
Warrell 2003, p.259.

Matthew Imms
July 2018

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