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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Campanile of San Marco (St Mark's), Venice, from the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian) at Night, with Fireworks over the Molo 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s), Venice, from the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian) at Night, with Fireworks over the Molo 1840
Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 10
Watercolour, gouache and chalk on grey-brown wove paper, 228 x 300 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCXVIII – 10’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The silhouetted campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) is seen to the north-east, with the dim evening or night sky is momentarily enlivened by fireworks bursting over the Molo waterfront of the Bacino south of the Piazza (St Mark’s Square) and Piazzetta. Towards the right appear to be indications of the pale classical façade and dome of the church of San Giorgio Maggiore on its island to the south-east, reflected in the dark water. There are twinkling points of artificial light here and there, and a steadier glow from a dormer window or small penthouse in the left foreground. Finberg described the scene, as ‘we look down upon the attics and roofs of the buildings which extend between the Calle del Ridotto and the office of the Captain of the Port. The Zecca stands out dark against the Piazzetta front of the Ducal Palace, which is lit up by the Roman candles and rockets fired from some ships moored off the Riva [degli Schiavoni].’1
By comparison with other works and as first proposed by Finberg,2 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 immediate foreground is likely the roof of the adjacent Palazzo Vallaresso Erizzo. The tower is seen through the windows of the room in Tate D32219 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 34). Compare also Tate D32142, D32173, D32179, D32224, D32254, D35882 and D35949 in the present grouping (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 5, 36, 42, CCCXVIII 5, CCCXIX 6, CCCLXIV 43, 106).3 D32224 and D32254 also explore night effects, being respectively lit by the soft glow of the moon and a jagged flash of lightning.4 D32248 (CCCXVIII 29) shows a rocket illuminating the dome of Santa Maria della Salute, likely also observed from the hotel, albeit looking the other way.
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),5 with its view eastwards to the campanile from high above the Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square), with fireworks in the distance. 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; see the Introduction to the present tour.6
Finberg 1930, pp.88, 93.
See Finberg 1930, p.176.
See also Wilton 1974, pp.155, 157, Stainton 1985, p.61, Lyles 1992, p.69, and Warrell 2003, p.24.
See Warrell 2003, pp.140, 264 note 28.
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, 50, Lyles 1992, p.69, and Warrell 2003, pp.20, 71.
Technical notes:
Comparison with the monochrome plate in Finberg’s 1930 book1 seems to indicate subsequent losses or diminution of some of the white highlights, and a loss of definition below the campanile on the left in particular. These differences appear more definite than inaccurate reproduction and, as the photograph from which the plate derives was likely taken before the catastrophic 1928 Tate Gallery flood, suggest some damage on that occasion.
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])’;2 for numerous red-brown Fabriano sheets used for similar subjects, see for example under Tate D32224 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 5).
The slightly irregular bottom edge is part of the outer edge of the original sheet of which this is a section. 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).
Finberg 1930, pl.XVI.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 11) in Warrell 2003, p.259; see also sections 9 and 10.
Blank, with heavy staining from the dark areas of the recto; inscribed by Turner in ink ‘12’ bottom right, upside down; inscribed in pencil ‘43’ above centre, ascending vertically; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCXVIII – 10’ bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘CCCXVIII 10’ towards bottom right. For Turner’s ink numbering of many similar sheets, see the Introduction to the tour.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s), Venice, from the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian) at Night, with Fireworks over the Molo 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-the-campanile-of-san-marco-st-marks-venice-from-the-hotel-r1197023, accessed 24 November 2020.