Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Piazzetta, Venice, with the Campanile and Basilica of San Marco (St Mark’s); the South-Western ‘Fig Tree’ Corner of the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace)

1819

Not on display
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 112 x 185 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D14412
Turner Bequest CLXXV 51 a

Catalogue entry

Finberg subsequently annotated his 1909 Inventory entry (‘The Campanile of St. Mark’s, with part of the Doge’s Palace (with figure of Eve and Serpent)’): ‘looking twds Camp[...] & Procuratie’.1 In another copy, he wrote ‘Camp Clock Tower St Marks Ducal Pal’.2 Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, the view is north-north-west up the centre of the Piazzetta, with the Biblioteca Marciana (Libreria Sansoviniana) and campanile of St Mark’s on the left, the Torre dell’Orologio (clock tower) at the north-eastern corner of the Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) beyond, and the south-western corner of the Basilica of San Marco on the right. There is a similar view, albeit in much more detail, from a few steps to the west on folio 45 recto (D14399), which Turner presumably felt sufficiently similar to avoid repetition here.
On the right is a new subject, the nearby south-western ‘Fig-tree angle’ (as John Ruskin later called it3) of the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), seen to the north-west from the Molo; Eve is sculpted in high relief pointing to the forbidden fruit above the massive capital of the ground-floor arcade and below the corner pillar of the balcony. The coils of the Serpent around the almost free-standing, heavily undercut tree which simultaneously covers Eve’s modesty with foliage are indicated, but the matching figure of Adam is out of sight round the corner, facing the Piazzetta. See the entry for a drawing of a woman entwined directly with a snake in the Windmill and Lock sketchbook of about 1808–11 (Tate D07961; Turner Bequest CXIV 2) for other instances of Turner’s interest in mythological and religious serpents.
Finberg perhaps somewhat harshly judged this typically assured if functional summary of complex detail as ‘a bad drawing of the capital of the pillar of the Doge’s place at the Fig-tree angle, and a worse one of the figures of Eve and the Serpent above it’.4
As Finberg noted,5 the main subject shares a similar viewpoint, albeit looking in a different direction, to the view towards the Dogana on folio 52 recto opposite (D14413). For other drawings made in the vicinity and an overview of Turner’s coverage of Venice, see the sketchbook’s Introduction.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

1
Undated MS note by A.J. Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.513.
2
Undated MS note by Finberg in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.513.
3
See E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (eds.), Library Edition: The Works of John Ruskin: Volume X: The Stones of Venice: Volume II: The Sea-Stories, London 1904, pp.359–61, 363.
4
Finberg 1930, p.34.
5
Ibid.

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