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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Lightning near the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark's), Venice, from the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian) at Night 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Lightning near the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s), Venice, from the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian) at Night 1840
Turner Bequest CCCXIX 6
Watercolour and gouache on red-brown wove paper, 158 x 232 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Inscribed in red ink ‘6’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCXIX 6’ 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 (‘View from a top window: Campanile in distance’), observing ‘scaffolding’ around the latter and adding: ‘Thunder storm with flash of forked lightning’.1 Finberg refined his published title, as ‘The Campanile from a top-window of the Hotel Europa’.2
The campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) is seen to the north-east towards the left the only clear landmark beyond the chimney stacks. By comparison with other works and as proposed by Finberg, the viewpoint is the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian), where Turner stayed in 1840 (see the introduction to this subsection), looking either from his room, apparently high up at the north-eastern corner, or the roof above it. The tower is seen through the windows of the room in Tate D32219 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 34). Compare also Tate D32142, D32173, D32179, D32224, D32229, D35882 and D35949 in the present grouping (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 5, 36, 42, CCCXVIII 5, 10, CCCLXIV 43, 106).3 D32224, D32142 and D32173 all include similar chimneys in the foreground, likely on the roof of the adjacent Palazzo Vallaresso Erizzo.
D32224 is a night scene by the soft light of a crescent moon, while in D32229 fireworks light up the sky to the right over the waters of the Bacino, indicated in the present work by a wash of blue. The most conspicuous element here is the jagged flash of lightning which appears to pass on the near side of the tower, or even ‘right through it’, as Ian Warrell has put it,4 illuminating its upper stages and casting shadows between the tiers of scaffolding around its spire; see the Introduction to the tour regarding this element as a means of dating such views. Compared the effect with that of the raw, jagged zig-zag in the more finished contemporary watercolour Lightning in the Piazzetta (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh);5 and see the view of the domes of nearby Santa Maria della Salute suddenly illuminated by the trail of a rocket (Tate D32248; Turner Bequest CCCXVIIII 29). Turner likely observed some dramatically stormy weather during this stay in the city, as also discussed in the tour’s Introduction.
Lindsay Stainton discussed this and other rooftop views in relation to the painting Juliet and her Nurse, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1836 (private collection; engraved in 1842 as ‘St Mark’s Place, Venice’: Tate impression T05188),6 with its view eastwards to the campanile from high above the Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square). Numerous watercolours (often night scenes) now associated with Turner’s 1840 stay in Venice were formerly considered likely preparatory studies and consequently dated prior to the painting; again, see the Introduction to the present tour.7
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1029.
Finberg 1930, p.176.
See also Stainton 1985, p.61, and Warrell 2003, p.24.
Warrell 2003, p.140.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.463 no.1352, reproduced; see also Warrell 2003, p.140..
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).
See Stainton 1985, pp.24, 46, and Warrell 2003, pp.20, 71.
Technical notes:
Fluid, almost calligraphic strokes of white gouache have been used for the lighting against the raw middle tone of the paper. The untrimmed edges of a corner of the original sheet are evident at the right-hand and bottom edges.
This is one of numerous 1840 Venice works Ian Warrell has noted as being on ‘Red-brown paper made at Cartieri Pietro Milani Mill, Fabriano, with a watermark showing the letter “M” accompanied by laurel leaves:1 Tate D32224, D32227, D32230, D32238–D32241, D32245–D32246, D32248, D32251, D32254 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 5, 8, 11, 19–22, 26, 27, 29, CCCXIX 3, 6). As Warrell has observed; the support ‘seems to be quite absorbent, so that the colours penetrate through to the back of the sheet’.2
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 9) in Warrell 2003, p.259; see also see also Bower 1999, p.111; and Warrell 2003, p.259, sections 10 and 11, for other likely Italian (possibly Fabriano) brown papers.
Ibid., section 9.
Blank; inscribed by Turner in ink ‘[?1]’ at centre (reading and orientation uncertain). This appears to be a numeral rather than a stray stroke, but too straight to be read as the ‘5’ noted by Finberg,1 although what he saw may possibly be obscured by the present mount. For Turner’s ink numbering of many similar sheets, see the Introduction to the tour.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

Finberg 1909, II, p.1029.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Lightning near the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s), Venice, from the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian) 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-lightning-near-the-campanile-of-san-marco-st-marks-venice-r1197030, accessed 22 June 2021.