Joseph Mallord William Turner

Waterfront Buildings around the Church of Santa Marta at the Western End of the Canale della Giudecca, Venice, towards Sunset; ?the Isola San Giorgio in Alga

1840

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 123 × 173 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D31852
Turner Bequest CCCXIII 32

Catalogue entry

There are three main bands of waterfront views here, and a smaller study at the top left, all made with the page turned horizontally. Finberg later annotated his 1909 Inventory entry (‘Distant buildings’) ‘?Campo Santo’,1 presumably suggesting the low-lying cemetery island of San Michele, in the Lagoon just north of the city, as featured in Turner’s painting 1842 Campo Santo, Venice (Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio).2 However, Ian Warrell has placed it among Canale della Giudecca views, observing that 1840 studies such as those on folios 17 recto (D32823) and 30 verso–33 recto (D31849–D31854) here, and in the Venice; Passau to Würzburg sketchbook (Tate D31288–D31293; Turner Bequest CCCX 6a–9), show how Turner ‘really began to see that this previously neglected quarter offered original ways of seeing Venice’.3
This is one of a several studies in this book (see also folios 16 verso, 22 recto and verso, 25 verso, 29 recto and 41 verso; D31822, D31833–D31834, D31839, D31846, D31871) noted by Warrell as showing the sun (seen low at the top left) setting over the water, in connection with an anecdote by the watercolourist William Callow (1812–1908), who recalled relaxing in a gondola and seeing Turner still busy working at that late hour, sketching from another boat;4 see also the verso (D31853).
The upper view appears to show the north side of the canal, with the austere former Church of Santa Marta towards the left, distinguished by its fenestration including a bricked-up thermal window. Compare the right-hand side of Tate D32129 (Turner Bequest CCCXV 13), a sunset watercolour view in the contemporary Grand Canal and Giudecca sketchbook.
The detail at the top left appears to show the Isola San Giorgio in Alga, south-west from the mouth of the canal; its church has long been abandoned and overgrown and the campanile lost, but engravings show the pyramidal roof of an adjacent waterfront building which may be what Turner shows to the left.5 The island appears in the distance of the 1780s painting View of the Giudecca and the Church of Santa Marta, Venice, by Giacomo and Francesco Guardi (National Trust, Waddesdon Manor). Compare one of the views among sketches made in the vicinity in the contemporary Venice; Passau to Würzburg sketchbook (Tate D31289; Turner Bequest CCCX 7).

Matthew Imms
September 2018

1
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1010.
2
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.246 no.397, pl.401 (colour).
3
Warrell 2003, pp.179, 264 note 4.
4
See ibid., pp.197, 264 notes 5 and 6.
5
See images at Alessandro Bullo, ‘San Giorgio in Alga’, Arte, Misteri e Segreti a Venezia, accessed 25 January 2018, https://www.venicecafe.it/san-giorgio-alga/.

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