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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Shipping off the Ponte della Paglia, Venice, with the Bridge of Sighs Beyond 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Shipping off the Ponte della Paglia, Venice, with the Bridge of Sighs Beyond 1840
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 14a
Chalk and pencil on buff-grey wove paper, 230 x 301 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom centre
Inscribed in red ink ‘(a’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This rapid sketch is readily identifiable by the elevated silhouette of the Bridge of Sighs.1 Seen to the north from the busy Bacino, it spans the Rio di Palazzo, with the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) on the left and the New Prisons on the right. The nearer, more conventional bridge is the Ponte Paglia, linking the quays of the Molo and the Riva degli Schiavoni. Though likely sketched directly like the other three Venice subjects on this folded sheet (see the technical notes), this one readily recalls the composition of the oil painting Venice, the Bridge of Sighs, exhibited at the Royal Academy earlier in 1840 (Tate N00527).2
There are also studies in the 1840 sketchbooks, including similar views in the Rotterdam to Venice and Venice; Passau to Würzburg books (Tate D32437, D31306–D13307; Turner Bequest CCCXX 89, CCCX 15a, 16). D32197 (CCCXVII 14b), on another quarter of this sheet, is a closer view of the Bridge of Sighs; see also a nocturnal colour study in the present grouping (D32253; CCCXIX 5).
Of the two further sketches on this sheet, D32198 (CCCXVIII 14c) is a more extensive view from nearby, while D32199 (CCCXVII 14d) is too slight a Venice subject to be readily identified.
See Finberg 1909, II, p.1023, and Finberg 1930, p.175.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.235 no.383, pl.386 (colour).
Technical notes:
This is one of four slight subjects on the recto of a sheet folded vertically and horizontally; see also Tate D32197, D32198 and D34199 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 14b, c, d), and compare Tate D32192–D32195 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 13a–d). The dimensions given are as recorded by Tate conservators, representing the overall sheet, and those of the present portion are approximately half those given in each direction.
Slight irregularities along the overall top edge of CCCXVII 13 (the half comprising D32192–D32193) match those at the bottom edge of the verso of CCCXVII 14 (D32198–D32199), showing that they once formed a continuous sheet. In discussing the papers used in Venice in 1840, Ian Warrell has described this as ‘Lightweight buff grey-paper from an unknown source, possibly English, with the watermark: “W”’.1
Among the Venetian sheets in paper conservator Peter Bower’s 1999 survey of Turner’s later papers,2 Tate D32233 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 14) was exhibited3 and reproduced, but there is a seemingly inadvertent mismatch.4 The detailed description and discussion of the sheet appear to apply to the present sheet, and Bower also refers to ‘CCCXVIII 13’,5 meaning CCCXVII 13. It is unclear whether the associated micrograph image relates to the present sheet or CCCXVIII 14.6 Bower noted: ‘Lightweight buff-grey wove | Watermark: W | Unknown maker’. He went on: ‘This quarter sheet is part of a well-formed lightweight buff wove sheet that also includes CCCXVIII 13’ (i.e. CCCXVII 13), torn down from a ‘full sheet size of approximately 17 ¾ x 22 ¾’ (inches; 450 x 578 mm), which ‘only matches one English paper size, Extra Large Post’, generally used for ‘white writing paper rather than coloured papers’; he suggested the German ‘Gross Median’ format of 460 x 590 mm as another possibility. Bower noted Tate D40202 (Turner Bequest LXXIV C), ‘erroneously catalogued as part of the [1802] Grenoble sketchbook’, but likely a Swiss 1840s sketch, as a ‘part sheet of this same paper ... also watermarked W in an outline capital’7 (compare the watermark on Tate D32195; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 13d).
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 5) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
See Bower 1999, p.112.
According to Tate Registrars’ files.
See Warrell 2003, p.259.
Bower 1999, p.112.
Ibid., pl.66A.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Shipping off the Ponte della Paglia, Venice, with the Bridge of Sighs Beyond 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-shipping-off-the-ponte-della-paglia-venice-with-the-bridge-r1196484, accessed 05 March 2021.