Joseph Mallord William Turner

Venice from the Bacino; Plants and a Leg from Titian’s ‘St Peter Martyr’; the Campanile and South Side of St Mark’s Square


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXV 40 a

Catalogue entry

The miscellaneous drawings here are inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation. The Turner scholar C.F. Bell marked Finberg’s 1909 Inventory entry (‘Distant view of Doge’s Palace ...’): ‘Panorama from near San Biagio S. Giorgio to l. Salute in the middle’.1 Bell annotated Finberg’s similar entry in In Venice with Turner (1930): ‘from the Riva di San Biagio’.2 These notes apply to the view of Venice at the top left, seen to the west from a boat in the Bacino somewhere off the entrance to the Rio dell’Arsenale and the church of San Biagio, encompassing the churches of San Giorgio Maggiore on the left and Santa Maria della Salute at the centre, with the campanile of St Mark’s towards the right. The shading of the latter suggests a contre-jour afternoon effect. Compare the more detailed view on folios 61 verso–62 recto (D14432–D14433).
A strip of approximately 20 mm at the right-hand, outer edge is taken up with a continuation of the full-page view south across the Piazzetta on folio 41 verso (D14392), which Turner would have temporarily slid to the left in order to continue here.
The third element on the present page, which Finberg thought had been drawn first,3 indeed as ‘one of the first things that Turner went to see when he got to Venice’4 is the most idiosyncratic: a study of the foreground plants and tree stump and a single adjacent leg of one of the earthly protagonists in the 1528 St Peter Martyr altarpiece by the major Venetian painter Titian (c.1490–1576). The painting was then housed in the large Basilica of Santi Giovanni e Paolo (see folio 72 recto; D14453), but was destroyed by fire in 1867. Turner had first examined it directly when it was displayed at the Louvre in Paris in 1802, and wrote an extended commentary on it in his Studies in the Louvre sketchbook (Tate D04306–D04308; Turner Bequest LXXII 27a, 28, 28a); see David Blayney Brown’s transcription and notes under D04308.
Finberg suggested that Turner focused on this detail aspect as it had been mentioned particularly by the first President of the Royal Academy, Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), in his eleventh Discourse (1782),5 when he had declared that ‘the weeds in the fore-ground are varied ... just as much as variety requires, and no more’, rather than featuring the ‘minute discriminations of the leaves and plants’ described by an earlier writer,6 thus embodying Reynolds’s characteristic recommendation of ‘shewing the general effect’, since when the artist ‘knows his subject, he will know not only what to describe, but also what to omit’.7 Turner sketched the painting again, within the church’s interior, in his 1833 Venice sketchbook (Tate D31992–D31993; Turner Bequest CCCXIV 34a–35).8
Undated MS note by C.F. Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.513.
Undated MS note by Bell (before 1936) in copy of Finberg 1930, Prints and Drawings Study Room, British Museum, London, p.163, as transcribed by Ian Warrell (undated notes, Tate catalogue files).
See Finberg 1930, pp.54, 57.
Ibid., p.57
See ibid., pp.57–8; see also Gage 1974, p.178, Ziff 1983, p.29 note 20, Gage 1987, pp.114–15, Warrell 2003, pp.17, 57, Hamilton 2008, pp.43, 90 note 14, and Hamilton 2009, pp.41, 150 note 14.
The Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Knight, 2nd ed., London 1798, vol.II, p.60.
Ibid., p.59.
See also Ian Warrell, ‘Turner and Venetian Painting’ in Warrell 2003, pp.53–66.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

Undated MS note by Finberg in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.513.

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