Joseph Mallord William Turner

Venice across the Bacino from around San Biagio, towards Sunset, with Santa Maria della Salute and the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) in the Distance

1840

Not on display

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour and pen and ink on paper
Dimensions
Support: 244 × 304 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D32158
Turner Bequest CCCXVI 21

Catalogue entry

Finberg later annotated his 1909 Inventory entry (‘Riva degli Schiavone, from near the Public Gardens’), crossing out ‘Public Gardens’ in favour of ‘San Biagio’,1 as did the Turner scholar C.F. Bell in his own copy.2 The view is west from the Canale di San Marco towards the Bacino, along the slow curve of the Riva degli Schiavoni waterfront. Compare Tate D32157 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 20), a similar subject, perhaps from a little further west. The domes of Santa Maria della Salute are shown on the left, silhouetted but almost lost in the glare of the sun setting over the entrance to the Grand Canal. The next feature appears to be a ghostly secondary version of the campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s), seemingly too prominent to represent one of the other towers beyond it; the domes of the Basilica are outlined towards the centre, to the right of the more clearly defined version.
Across the area of darker clouds at the centre right is a faint network of brown lines, possibly washed out, evoking the profile of a tall building towards the foreground but superseded by the forceful outlines of waterfront structures, suggesting Turner was developing the composition even as he worked, introducing striped awnings and groups of figures in the foreground. Ian Warrell noted that the ‘pen work in this study [see the technical notes below] seems only partly finished; the transition between foreground and distance is too sudden, interrupting the recessions suggested in the washes.’ He gave contemporary watercolour Venice: The Riva degli Schiavoni (Ashmolean Museum)3 as a more harmonious ‘example of the way Turner could provide greater detail by using a network of pen lines, while still preserving a unified design’.4 In this case, Turner’s quest for ‘greater substance, through the addition of coloured outlines, seems to work against the subtle effect he sought to recreate, which perhaps explains why in this instance he took his draughtsmanship no further’.5
Despite these provisional aspects, in 1857 John Ruskin. describing the viewpoint as ‘the Fondamenta Ca’ di Dio’ (just west of the Riva San Biagio and its church), observed:
1
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1019.
2
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1019.
3
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.464 no.1364, reproduced.
4
Warrell 1995, p.101.
5
Warrell 2003, p.227.
6
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.211.
7
Warrell 2003, p.227.
8
See ibid., p.47.
9
Warrell 1995, p.100.
10
See Warrell 2003, pp.227, 265 note 36.
11
Ibid., p.227.
12
Ibid., p.230.
13
Ibid., p.24; see also p.138, and Leo Costello, J.M.W. Turner and the Subject of History, Farnham and Burlington 2012, pp.175–6; for Byron in general, see David Blayney Brown, Turner and Byron, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1992.
14
Warrell 2003, p.230.
1
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.
2
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 2) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
3
Wilton 1979, p.463 no.1356, reproduced.
4
Ibid., p.464 no.1365.
5
Warrell 2003, p.259.

Matthew Imms
July 2018

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