J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner A Procession, Perhaps in the Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square), Venice, at Night 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
A Procession, Perhaps in the Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square), Venice, at Night 1840
Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 14
Gouache and watercolour on grey-brown wove paper, 227 x 292 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCXVIII – 14’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The Turner scholar C.F. Bell annotated Finberg’s 1909 Inventory entry (‘A Procession (?)’): ‘nondescript’.1 Finberg himself subsequently noted that the setting was ‘probably in the Piazza’.2 The setting of this loosely worked ‘beginning’ of a figure scene is indeed difficult to place or interpret. It is apparently outdoors in the evening or at night, with arcades or colonnades at various angles, perhaps with a suggestion of tracery by yellow artificial light at the centre, or something illuminated, like the booth near the campanile in the Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) in more finished contemporary works on similar paper (Tate D32250, D32258; Turner Bequest CCCXIX 2, 10).
Comparing the present work with D32250 and the moonlit Piazzetta scene in Tate D32220 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 1), Lindsay Stainton concurred that it likely shows a ‘procession, perhaps in the Piazza’, which ‘seems to be reminiscent of paintings ... by Canaletto and Guardi. There may also be echoes of [Richard Parkes] Bonington’s late Venetian pictures: his [Venice:] Ducal Palace with a religious procession had been exhibited in London in 1828 to considerable acclaim’3 (Tate N05789).
See also Tate D32231 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 12), with the same limited combination of colours and ghostly white figures, but perhaps in the arched interior of a church. D32244 (CCCXVIII 25), another interior, includes a crowd in largely undifferentiated white, presumably as a base colour for potential detailed work. Meanwhile, D32251 (CCCXIX 3) is another slight but atmospheric work included in the present subsection as another possible Piazza scene.
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1027.
Finberg 1930, p.176.
Stainton 1985, p.47.
Technical notes:
There are adventitious splashes below left and above right of the centre, with scattered spotting towards the top left. This is one of numerous 1840 Venice works Ian Warrell has noted as being on ‘Grey-brown paper produced by an unknown maker (possibly ... a batch made at Fabriano [Italy])’;1 for numerous red-brown Fabriano sheets used for similar subjects, see for example under Tate D32224 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 5).
Warrell noted the grey-brown sheets as being torn into two formats: nine sheets of approximately 148 x 232 mm (Tate D32220, D32249–D32250, D32252–D32253, D32255–D32258; Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 1, CCCXIX 1, 2, 4, 5, 7–10), and seven of twice the size, at about 231 x 295 mm (Tate D32223, D32226, D32228–D32229, D32231, D32233, D32242; Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 4, 7, 9, 10, 12, 14, 23).
This work (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 14) was exhibited2 and reproduced among the Venetian sheets in paper conservator Peter Bower’s 1999 survey of Turner’s later papers,3 but there is a seemingly inadvertent mismatch. The image and title relate to this work, but the detailed description and discussion appear to apply to Turner Bequest CCCXVII 14, a contemporary sheet with four Venice views;4 see the entries for Tate D32196–D32199 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 14a–d), and those for a related sheet (Tate D32192–D34195; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 13a–d), referred to by Bower as ‘CCCXVIII 13’.5 It is unclear whether the associated micrograph image relates to the present sheet or CCCXVII 14.6
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 11) in Warrell 2003, p.259; see also sections 9 and 10.
According to Tate Registrars’ files.
See Bower 1999, p.112.
See Warrell 2003, p.259.
Ibid., pl.66A.
Blank; inscribed by Turner in ink ‘18’ bottom right, upside down; inscribed in pencil ‘47’ above centre, ascending vertically; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCXVIII – 14’ bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘CCCXVIII 14’ towards bottom right. For Turner’s various annotations to his 1840 Venice sheets, see the overall Introduction to the tour.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘A Procession, Perhaps in the Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square), Venice, at Night 1840 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, September 2018, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2019, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-a-procession-perhaps-in-the-piazza-san-marco-st-marks-square-r1197044, accessed 05 March 2021.