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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Figures Crossing ?the Ponte della Veneta Marina East of the Riva degli Schiavoni, Venice, with Santa Maria della Salute and the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark's) in the Distance 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Figures Crossing ?the Ponte della Veneta Marina East of the Riva degli Schiavoni, Venice, with Santa Maria della Salute and the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) in the Distance 1840
Turner Bequest CCCXVI 30
Watercolour on white wove paper, 244 x 305 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom left
Stamped in black ‘CCCXVI 30’ 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 (‘Bridge on the Riva degli Schiavone’): ‘Probably Ponte della Pietà’.1 The work’s title was amended in recent years as ‘Venice: The Ponte della Veneta Marina on the Riva degli Schiavoni’,2 in the wake of Tate’s near-comprehensive Turner and Venice exhibition, when it was not exhibited or reproduced, likely on account of its relatively poor condition (see the technical notes).
The Ponte della Veneta Marina is at the entrance to the Rio della Tana, south of the Arsenale, linking the Riva San Biagio and Riva dei Setti Martiri, and considerably further east than the Ponte della Pietà on the Riva degli Schiavoni, mooted by Bell and adopted in earlier sources. However, an early photograph shows buildings then abutting its north-eastern corner,3 which would have impeded the view on the right here. The bridge seems to be mentioned in a memorandum in the contemporary Rotterdam to Venice sketchbook (Tate D32431; Turner Bequest CCCXX 86), and there is a pencil drawing showing its elevation from the Canale di San Marco in the Venice and Botzen book (D31835; CCCXIII 23); see also D31809 (CCCXIII 10), where a rougher view is inscribed ‘Ponte della Venetta [sic] Marina’.
Similar candidates are the nearby Ponte dell’Arsenale (featuring obelisks not indicated here) and the Ponte della Cà di Dio. It may be that the structure is an amalgamation of all three, or none, introduced simply as a setting for figures promenading along the waterfront; see the discussion of these bridges in relation to the capriccio-like foreground of a contemporary colour study, Tate D32160 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 23). Compare also a loosely worked gouache study on grey paper (D32235; CCCXVIII 16), prominently labelled with what seems to be the single word ‘Marina’.
At any event, the view is westwards along the slow curve of the Riva beside the Canale di San Marco and the Bacino beyond, with the domes of Santa Maria della Salute and the campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) almost dissolving in the hazy afternoon light. Ian Warrell described the present study as among those likely derived from Canaletto’s panoramic Bacino compositions.4 He has noted Ruskin’s grouping of ‘a series of views along the rambling Riva degli Schiavoni, which suggests that Turner explored its length by foot, as well as from the water’: Tate D32120 (Turner Bequest CCCXV 4) from the contemporary Grand Canal and Giudecca sketchbook, and D32157–D32160 (CCCXVI 20–23) in the present grouping,5 to which Warrell added this sheet and D32168 (CCCXVI 31),6 linked by ‘the brilliant sunshine refracted by the surface of the Bacino’.7
In discussing John Ruskin’s notes on Turner’s depictions of gondolas in motion (see D32159–D32160), Warrell noted that ‘Turner sometimes renders these boats in an incomplete manner, so that it is not always obvious what he has depicted. For example, the canopy of a gondola floats truncated in the background of [the present] view, before disappearing under a bridge’;8 this is the incongruously table-like structure towards the bottom right. To its right again seems to be the figure of a woman, perhaps embarking or disembarking on the quay which obscures the hull of the craft.
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1020.
Tate catalogue files.
See ‘Ponte della Veneta Marina’, Venipedia, accessed 6 April 2018, https://venipedia.it/it/archivio-fotografico-storico/ponte-della-veneta-marina.
See Warrell 2003, p.47.
Warrell 1995, p.100.
See Warrell 2003, pp.227, 265 note 36.
Ibid., p.227; see also Stainton 1985, p.60.
Warrell 1995, pp.102–3.
Technical notes:
There appears to be no underlying pencil work, with the forms of the bridge and the waterfront buildings to the right defined by strokes of dilute grey or black, along with the foreground figures. Clouds have been washed or rubbed out of the pale washes towards the top right to suggest the direct glare of the sun, but the effect is now hardly apparent owing to fading of the pigments and corresponding yellowing of the paper owing to prolonged early display. Strips of varying width were protected by a mount around the edges, and the pale blue of the sky as it once was is now confined to the top edge. There is also scattered spotting or foxing.
In 1857 John Ruskin’s commentary on this and Tate D32168 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 31) was limited to calling them ‘leaves from his last sketch-book at Venice’,1 although each was actually always separate. They are among numerous 1840 Venice works Ian Warrell has noted as on sheets of ‘white paper produced [under the name] Charles Ansell,2 each measuring around 24 x 30 cm, several watermarked with the date “1828”’:3 Tate D32138–D32139, D32141–D32143, D32145–D32147, D32154–D32163, D32167–D32168, D32170–D32177, D35980, D36190 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 1, 2, 4–6, 8–10, 17–26, 30, 31, 33–40, CCCLXIV 137, 332). Warrell has also observed that The Doge’s Palace and Piazzetta, Venice (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin)4 and Venice: The New Moon (currently untraced)5 ‘may belong to this group’.6
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.296.
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.
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘21’ bottom left, upside down, ‘19’ centre’, and ‘587A’ below centre; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCXVI – 30’ towards bottom right; inscribed in pencil ‘D32167’ bottom left.

Matthew Imms
July 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Figures Crossing ?the Ponte della Veneta Marina East of the Riva degli Schiavoni, Venice, with Santa Maria della Salute and the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) in the Distance 1840 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, July 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-figures-crossing-the-ponte-della-veneta-marina-east-of-the-r1196998, accessed 04 December 2020.