Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Rio di San Luca, Venice, with the Church of San Luca and the Back of the Palazzo Grimani


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk and graphite on paper
Support: 194 × 279 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Catalogue entry

Not mentioned in Finberg’s 1909 Inventory,1 this detailed pencil sketch with white highlights is on the verso of Tate D32215 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 30), which shows the same scene in gouache and watercolour, albeit with significant variations; the views are inverted relative to each other. Although Finberg had not identified the subject, as discussed under D32215 it was long identified as the Ponte della Guerra and the Palazzo Tasca-Papafava, south-east of the Rialto, until being correctly identified by Ian Warrell in 2003.2
The view is north-west along the narrow Rio di San Luca, with part of the Palazzo Papodopoli closing the prospect beyond its entrance into the Grand Canal west of the Rialto Bridge. Turner had first drawn here in the 1819 Milan to Venice sketchbook (Tate D14486; Turner Bequest CLXXV 89a).3 The towering central block is the back of the Palazzo Grimani (see under D32215 for other views), with the elaborate gateway to its small courtyard alongside the canal. Only about half of the pilastered west end of the church of San Luca is shown at the right-hand edge. The bridge aligned just to the right (south) of its central door is not hinted at, although it is prominently shown as a simple stone or rendered arch in D32215 (it is now a steel structure known as the Ponte del Teatro). Considerable further differences in detail and alignment suggest that the two sides may be independent and drawn from distinct points up and down the canal; see the discussion under the recto in terms of their possible interrelationship, perhaps mediated by a second sheet with a variant colour study (D32216; CCCXVII 31).4
Ian Warrell has observed: ‘Visiting this spot, it is immediately apparent that Turner took considerable licence with perspective, and encompassed what amounts to two viewpoints by ingeniously extending the parameters of his image beyond what the human eye can take in.’5 Nevertheless, of the three related drawings, the present view appears the least manipulated and distorted, suggesting it was likely drawn from a boat under or just clear of the Ponte del Teatro.
See A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.II, p.1025; also omitted from A.J. Finberg, In Venice with Turner, London 1930, p.175.
See Warrell 2003, pp.156, 158–9, 272.
See ibid., p.156.
Ibid., pp.156, 158, and Taft 2004, p.208.
Warrell 2003, p.156.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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