Joseph Mallord William Turner

Venetian Scene


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 794 × 787 mm
frame: 950 × 952 × 60 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Display caption

This is an unfinished work in the
square format which Turner used
in the 1840s, mainly for pairs of pictures on contrasting themes. The subject, involving a procession of figures, is not
yet clear, and it is impossible to be certain that the painting shows Venice. The sky
is worked with a palette knife and with curved sweeps of the brush, building up the vertical swirls that are pronounced in some of Turner's late exhibited pictures.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

504. [N05482] Venetian Scene c. 1840–5?


Canvas, 31 1/4 × 31 (79·5 × 79)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856 (158, one of 2 each 2'7 1/4" × 2'7" with No. 532 [N05475]; identified 1946, ?by chalk number on back); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1947.

Exh. Paris 1983–4 (69, repr.).

Lit. Davies 1946, pp. 158, 188; Wallace 1979, p. 109, pl. 2; Butlin 1981, p. 45.

An unfinished Venetian scene with the square format and vortex-like composition of a number of Turner's works of the 1840s (e.g. Nos. 404–5 [N00531-N00532]), similar in its impression of a procession of boats to No. 505 [N02068]. For what was possibly a projected companion see No. 532 [N05475]. Gage (exh. cat., Paris 1983–4) queries the possibility that the two pictures could be companions on the grounds that they are very similar in colour, but in view of the fact that, unlike the exhibited works in this sort of format, Turner seems to have added a lot of colour, as well as detail, at the last minute, as for instance in the case of the vital blues in Undine giving the Ring to Massaniello (No. 424, q.v.[N00549]), this is not a conclusive argument. He also queries the identification with Venice, while agreeing that the composition is similar in character to some of the festive Venetian scenes such as Nos. 505–8 [N02068, N04659-N04661].

There are paint losses, now restored, all down the right-hand edge, though mainly only in a narrow strip. The form of the Thomas Brown stamp on the back of the canvas supports a date in the 1840s (see Butlin, loc. cit.).

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984

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