Joseph Mallord William Turner

Women on a Venice Rooftop beside the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian), with the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) Beyond


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache, graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 245 × 306 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVI 36

Catalogue entry

Finberg later annotated his basic 1909 Inventory entry (‘Venice’): ‘from Hotel de l’Europe. Campanile in distance’.1 The Turner scholar C.F. Bell marked his own copy: ‘from the roof of the Hotel Europa’.2 Turner was staying at the Europa (the Palazzo Giustinian; see the Introduction to this subsection), and the viewpoint here seems to have been either his room, apparently high up at the north-eastern corner, or the roof above it, looking north-east to the campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) on the left, pale and rosy beyond buildings in violet late afternoon shadow, with loose stokes of strong green at the bottom right indicating the waters of the Bacino to the south east. The tower is seen through a window in Tate D32219 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 34). Compare also Tate D32142, D32179, D32224, D32229, D32254, D35882 and D35949 in the present grouping (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 5, 42, CCCXVIII 5, 10, CCCXIX 6, CCCLXIV 43, 106).3
Not only the architecture caught Turner’s eye, and D32179 and D32224 also appear to show women through neighbouring attic windows.4 Here, in a similar setting to D32142, where washing is shown drying between the chimneys,5 three maids or laundresses are shown in the open, as Ian Warrell has observed: ‘a woman wearing a mob-cap has her back to the viewer as she engages the attention of a seated figure, who in turn glances over her shoulder to stare in Turner’s direction. Meanwhile, a third face peers above the rooftops’,6 to candid and slightly comic effect. In both works the foreground is likely the roof of the Palazzo Vallaresso Erizzo (now the Hotel Monaco), immediately east of the Europa.
Turner’s ‘This [?belongs] to the Beppo Club’ on the verso is one of three similar inscriptions on the backs of 1840 Venice sheets (see also under Tate D32158, D40176; Turner Bequest CCCXVI 21, 37 verso). Ian Warrell has related them to Lord Byron’s 1818 poem Beppo: An Italian Story, a ‘playful evocation of the licentiousness of the Venetian carnival’;7 lines Warrell quotes from stanza XI8 seem ironically applicable to the typically cursory treatment of the two faces turned to the viewer: ‘They’ve pretty faces yet, those same Venetians, | Black-eyes, arch’d brows, and sweet expressions still’.
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1021.
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1021.
See also Wilton 1975, p.137, and Stainton 1985, p.61.
See Warrell 2003, p.24.
Ibid, p.138.
Ibid., p.24; see also p.138, and Costello 2012, pp.175–6; for Byron in general, see David Blayney Brown, Turner and Byron, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1992.
Warrell 2003, p.24.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1021.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.215–17 no.365, pl.369 (colour).
Wilton 1974, p.155; see also Wilton 1975, p.137.
Stainton 1985, p.61; see also p.33.
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.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 2) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.463 no.1356, reproduced.
Ibid., p.464 no.1365.
Warrell 2003, p.259.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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