Joseph Mallord William Turner

Venice, the Piazzetta with the Ceremony of the Doge Marrying the Sea


Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 914 × 1219 mm
frame: 1290 × 1595 × 90 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Display caption

Although this painting is unfinished, it is possible to imagine how Turner would have developed it. The top half of the Doge's Palace and the Campanile of S.Marco are recognisable, but Turner abandoned the picture before bringing it to the detailed finish of other Venetian subjects dating from the 1830s. Among the group of figures in the foreground on the left is the Doge, depicted in the act of wedding the sea through the ritualised gift of a gold ring. The ceremony had ceased to take place by Turner's time, which implies that he intended the picture to be an historical subject.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

501. [N04446] Venice, the Piazzetta with the Ceremony of the Doge marrying the Sea c. 1835


Canvas, 36 × 48 (91·5 × 122)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856 (136, one of 36 each 4'0" × 3'0"; identified 1946 by chalk number on back); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1948.

Exh. Rotterdam 1955 (58); New York 1966 (12, repr. p. 36); Edinburgh 1968 (8).

Lit. Davies 1946, pp. 156, 188 n. 14; Gowing 1966, p. 36, repr.; Herrmann 1975, p. 47, pl. 156; Wilton 1979, p. 224.

Formerly given a solely topographical title, this picture has been identified by Lawrence Gowing as a work in progress on the subject of the Doge symbolically marrying the Adriatic, which Turner could have known from sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Venetian examples. Turner seems to have abandoned the picture at the moment of drastically altering the roof-line of the Doge's Palace on the right.

Tentatively datable to the mid 1830s on account of its relatively strong colouring and thickly applied paint. In addition, Turner seems to have abandoned his standard 3 ft by 4 ft format for Venetian exhibits after 1836, but see Nos. 505 {N02068] and 506 [N04660], and also the upright No. 368.

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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