Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Piazzetta, Venice, from the Bacino, with the Campanile and Basilica of San Marco (St Mark’s), the Torre dell’Orologio and the Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 185 × 230 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXLIV 374

Catalogue entry

Finberg later annotated his 1909 Inventory entry (‘Group of buildings. Probably at Venice’, in a large grouping of ‘Miscellaneous: black and white’ drawings on ‘White Paper’): ‘Cert[ai]n[l]y Venice’.1
Close inspection though the heavy staining and rubbing reveals a loosely rendered, almost child-like outline view looking north from the Bacino to the Molo waterfront, centred on the Piazzetta, perhaps from memory or as an ad hoc compositional study. The block on the left is the Libreria Sansoviniana, with the campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) beyond. To the north-north-west at the centre is a slight indication of the Torre dell’Orologio on the north side of the Piazza; to the right is the south-west corner of the Basilica, with the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) barely articulated on the right. There also seem to be rough parallel strokes to mark the two columns at the entrance to the Piazzetta.
This is among the most familiar views in Venice, and Turner made many more detailed drawings and watercolours of the vicinity, perhaps the best-known being a sunlit colour study from further out on the water in his 1819 Como and Venice sketchbook (Tate D15258; Turner Bequest CLXXXI 7).
There is a similarly rough drawing from a little further east on the verso (D34865). The sheet is here tentatively placed among the generally much more developed Venetian watercolours and drawings linked more securely to the 1840 tour.
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, opposite p.1144.
Technical notes:
Tate conservation notes record the presence of watercolour, which seems to constitute a loose overall wash, given the heavy rubbing and staining; the sheet was previously folded twice towards the bottom. Ian Warrell did not mention this work in his near-comprehensive survey of the papers used on Turner’s visits to Venice.1

Matthew Imms
September 2018

See Ian Warrell in Warrell, David Laven, Jan Morris and others, Turner and Venice, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2003, pp.258–9.

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