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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Figures on a Bridge, Venice, at Night 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Figures on a Bridge, Venice, at Night 1840
Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 24
Gouache, pen and ink and watercolour on grey wove paper, 224 x 286 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCXVIII – 24’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This freely worked, only partly developed subject employs simple, direct means to evoke a typical small bridge over a side canal, with figures dashed in with strokes of white, black and pink passing across. Among various contemporary interior and figure scenes, compare in particular the summary treatment of the theatre audience in Tate D32237 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 18). Buildings on either side have been suggested by leaving areas of the bare grey paper reserved against the washes of what is likely a night sky.
Technical notes:
There is some dark spotting, but the colours and the tone of the support remain relatively fresh, as this sheet was not exhibited for prolonged periods at an early date, unlike some on similar supports which have suffered accordingly, such as Tate D32222 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 3). The black used for the central figure appears particularly dense.
This is one of numerous 1840 Venice works Ian Warrell has noted as being on ‘Grey wove [paper], with a textured surface, produced by an unknown maker’ mostly measuring around 218 x 285 mm:1 Tate D32222, D32234–D32236, D32243–D32244 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 3, 15–17, 24, 25).
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 12) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Blank, with dark brown localised staining where the black has bled through from the recto; inscribed by Turner in ink ‘30’ bottom right, upside down; inscribed in pencil ‘57’ above centre, ascending vertically; inscribed in pencil ‘Solid’ towards bottom left, upside down; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCXVIII – 23’ bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘CCCXVIII 24’ towards bottom right. For Turner’s ink numbers on the backs of Venice sheets, see the Introduction to the tour.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Figures on a Bridge, 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-figures-on-a-bridge-venice-at-night-r1196491, accessed 21 January 2021.