Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal, Venice, with the Fondaco dei Tedeschi Beyond


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXV 79

Catalogue entry

Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, the drawing continues on folio 78 verso opposite (D14465). The Turner scholar C.F. Bell annotated Finberg’s 1909 Inventory entry (‘Ponte di Rialto, with Fondaco de’ Tedeschi and other buildings seen through its arch’): ‘from the Canal’.1
The viewpoint is below the north end of the south-west side of the bridge, looking diagonally eastwards through its single arch to the waterfront arcade of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi.
The immediate study of the bridge peters out above the high-relief stone angel at the top left, merging with a separate study, on a smaller scale, of the upper stages and roofline of the buildings on the Riva del Ferro shown on the opposite page, with the campanile of San Bartolomeo rising just beyond to the south-east. James Hamilton has described how Turner ‘reveals the paradoxical nature of Venice: its wide-open skies, its generous stretches of water, and its welcoming urban vistas which can so suddenly close down to appear claustrophobic and frightening’, using this ‘dramatic drawing’ as an example.2
Although Martin Butlin3 related the overall view to the very large but unfinished painting The Rialto, Venice of about 1820 (Tate N05543),4 it shows a view under the bridge looking in the opposite direction based on the drawing on folios 80 verso–81 recto (D14469–D14470), and is discussed under those pages. The same applies to an unfinished watercolour (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin)5 showing the same view as the oil, albeit Barbara Dawson has related it to the present page.6
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

Undated MS note by C.F. Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.515.
Hamilton 2009, p.40; see also Hamilton 2008, p.42.
See Butlin 1974, p.86; and Butlin and Joll 1984, p.152.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.152 no.245, pl.248.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.383 no.725, pl.160.
See Dawson 1988, p.105.

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