Joseph Mallord William Turner

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


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 188 × 284 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 43

Catalogue entry

The Turner scholar C.F. Bell annotated Finberg’s vague 1909 Inventory entry (‘View of city: evening’): ‘Venice from the roof of the Europa’.1 Finberg did not recognise the subject in time for his detailed 1930 book on Turner’s Venice work,2 although the identification was confirmed when the work was exhibited in 1935.3
The view ranges north-eastwards over the rooftops to the campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) on the left, with the pinkish Piazzetta façade of the Palazzo Ducale below, along the Molo and Riva degli Schiavoni waterfront, and out across the Bacino, south-eastwards to the campanile and dome of San Giorgio Maggiore. The vista is similar to that shown in a sunlit contemporary colour study (Tate D32179; Turner Bequest CCCXVI 42) , with detailed pencil work which the present variant entirely lacks, and a more spontaneous view of a dramatic sunrise (D35949; CCCLXIV 106).
As Bell noted, the viewpoint was the Hotel Europa (the Palazzo Giustinian), where Turner was staying; see the Introduction to this subsection. His room was apparently high up at the north-eastern corner, and the campanile is seen through a window in Tate D32219 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 34). Compare also the various day and night effects in D32142, D32173, D32224, D32229 and D32254 in the present grouping (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 5, 36, CCCXVIII 5, 10, CCCXIX 6).4 Ian Warrell has observed that the diagonal shadows here suggest ‘the end of the afternoon’.5
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1180.
A.J. Finberg, In Venice with Turner, London 1930.
See Baxandall 1935, p.19.
See also Wilton 1975, p.136, 137, Stainton 1985, p.61, and Warrell 2003, pp.24, 138, 198.
Ibid., p.140.
Technical notes:
The work is executed entirely in watercolour, ranging from architectural details carefully outlined with the point of the brush, broader, controlled washes to create shadowy spaces filled with reflected light, and clouds evoked through a combination of dry, hatched strokes over the horizon and much more fluid areas towards the top right. As D. Kighley Baxandall remarked: ‘years of acute study of cloud-phenomena lie behind the sky’.1
This is one of seven 1840 Venice works Ian Warrell has noted as on ‘sheets of white paper probably made [under the name] Charles Ansell.2 These measure approximately 19.8 x 28.4 cm (indicating that they were folded and torn into eight pieces from an imperial sheet)’:3 Tate D32140, D32165, D32179, D35882, D35949, D36192 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 3, 28, 42, CCCLXIV 43, 106, 334); see also San Giorgio Maggiore from the Hotel Europa, at the Entrance to the Grand Canal (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester).4 Warrell has noted that an ‘eighth sheet’, Tate D32166 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 29), ‘seems to relate to this group, both technically and in terms of its size, but this has been identified by [paper conservator] Peter Bower as paper produced by Bally, Ellen and Steart’.5
Baxandall 1935, p.10.
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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