Joseph Mallord William Turner

Venice across the Bacino from near the Rio dell’Arsenale, with Santa Maria della Salute and the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) in the Distance

1840

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 246 × 304 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D32159
Turner Bequest CCCXVI 22

Catalogue entry

The Turner scholar C.F. Bell annotated Finberg’s 1909 Inventory entry (‘Riva degli Schiavone’): ‘From the Ponte della Veneta Marina’.1 In 1857, John Ruskin had described the subject as the Riva ‘with the Bridge over the Rio dell’ Arsenale’.2 Elsewhere, Finberg suggested: ‘(The Bridge on the right may be the Ponte della Cà di Dio.)’3 These are three consecutive bridges near the Arsenale east of the Riva degli Schiavoni, each a little to the west of the next as given here, and similar enough to make it unclear whether Turner intended to depict one in particular towards the right.4
There are similar prospects in Tate D32157–D32158 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 20, 21); the present view may be from slightly further off, while sharing a striped awning with the second,5 a rather more hectic composition both in terms of its colouring and the busily populated foreground. Compare a vigorous pencil sketch of a similar waterfront view, including an awning, in the contemporary Venice and Botzen D31844 (CCCXIII 28).
Ian Warrell described the colour studies as among those likely derived from Canaletto’s panoramic Bacino compositions.6 He has noted John Ruskin’s grouping of ‘a series of views along the rambling Riva degli Schiavoni, which suggests that Turner explored its length by foot, as well as from the water’: Tate D32120 (Turner Bequest CCCXV 4) from the contemporary Grand Canal and Giudecca sketchbook, and D32157–D32160 (CCCXVI 20–23) in the present grouping,7 to which Warrell added D32167 and D32168 (CCCXVI 30, 31),8 linked by ‘the brilliant sunshine refracted by the surface of the Bacino’.9
The distant blue-violet silhouettes of Santa Maria della Salute, west across the Canale di San Marco and the Bacino on the left, and the campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) suggest strong, hazy afternoon light. In 1857 Ruskin idiosyncratically described the effect as ‘the first twilight ... which immediately precedes the sunset’ (whereas the ‘“second” twilight, a peculiar flush, like a faint reflection of the sunset, ... succeeds the first twilight, after some minutes’).10 Whether Turner intended or even considered such a subjective refinement seems perhaps unlikely; for a supposed ‘second twilight’, see Tate D32161 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 24). On a more empirical point, Ruskin observed:
1
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1020.
2
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.212; see also p.373 (1881).
3
Finberg 1930, p.174.
4
See also Warrell 1995, p.102.
5
See Warrell 2003, p.230.
6
Ibid., p.47.
7
Warrell 1995, p.100.
8
See Warrell 2003, pp.227, 265 note 36.
9
Ibid., p.227.
10
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.212 and footnote.
11
Ibid.
12
Warrell 1995, p.102.
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
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 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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