Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Rooftops of Venice, with the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) and San Giorgio Maggiore, from the Hotel Europa Palazzo Giustinian) at Sunrise


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 198 × 280 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 106

Display caption

The large group of watercolours which resulted from Turner's last visit to Venice in 1840 is characterised by a delicious liquidity which unifies air and water in layered, coloured mists. He stayed near the mouth of the Grand Canal at the Hotel Europe, from where he made sketches over the rooftops after dark. Alternatively, from a gongola off the great Piazzetta, he was able to see the sun set down the wide canal of the Giudecca.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Finberg later annotated his generic 1909 Inventory entry (‘Sunset’, in a large grouping of ‘Miscellaneous: colour’ sheets): ‘Venice CFB’.1 The initials are those of the Turner scholar C.F. Bell, who marked his own copy ‘Venice’.2 The discovery of the exact subject was a gradual process. Even before the Inventory E.T. Cook had called it an ‘Italian Sketch’;3 Luke Herrmann was first to suggest Venice in print;4 then Andrew Wilton recognised the general aspect of the view, ‘Presumably looking from the Dogana towards the Campanile of St. Mark’s on the left, the Doge’s Palace centre, and S. Giorgio Maggiore at the extreme right’,5 although it continued to be known as a sunset view until Lindsay Stainton tentatively modified Wilton’s topographical description, describing it as ‘Looking eastwards towards the Campanile of St Mark’s: sunrise?’ 6
In fact, once compared with more conventional 1840 colour studies, the scope of this one becomes clear, ranging north-east to the campanile and south-east to the dome of San Giorgio, seemingly shrouded in mist across the Bacino at the far right.7 There are selective foreground details picked out in grey outline over the washes, including a dormer window or small penthouse, also shown in related views. This was likely on the roof of the Palazzo Vallaresso Erizzo (now the Hotel Monaco), immediately east of the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian), where Turner was staying, in a room apparently high up in its north-east corner; see the Introduction to this subsection. The campanile is seen through a window in Tate D32219 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 34), and aspects of the vista are explored under a range of day and night effects (including moonlight, fireworks and a flash of lightning) in Tate D32142, D32173, D32179, D32224, D32229, D32254 and D35882 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 5, 36, 42, CCCXVIII 5, 10, CCCXIX 6, CCCLXIV 43).8
Compare also the softer effect, likely also observed around dawn, in a laterally condensed view of the campanile and two others north and north-west of the Europa (Tate D32140; Turner Bequest CCCXVI 3).9
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1183.
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1183.
Cook 1905, p.25.
See Herrmann 1970, p.11.
Wilton 1974, p.156.
Stainton 1985, p.64.
See Warrell 2003, p.140.
See also Stainton 1985, p.61, and Warrell 2003, pp.24, 138.
See also Warrell 2003, p.138.
Costello 2012, p.177.
Stainton 1985, p.64.
Moorby 2014, p.113.
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 1) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Not in Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979; Warrell 2003, fig.148 (colour).
Warrell 2003, p.259; see Bower 1999, pp.105–7 under no.59.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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