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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, across the Bacino from the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian) 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, across the Bacino from the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian) 1840
Turner Bequest CCCXVI 11
Gouache and watercolour on pale buff wove paper, 226 x 300 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Inscribed in red ink ‘11’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCXVI 11’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Topographically speaking, this is one of the slightest Venetian views in the present grouping, and was taken by Finberg to represent the campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) looking north across the Bacino from the Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore.1 Without disputing this, Andrew Wilton called it an ‘unusually schematized view ... in which the buildings are a blank strip between the washes of blue and green’, and ‘less atmospheric and more explicitly concerned with composition’ than other Venetian watercolours.2
Ian Warrell has characterised the ‘almost wanton attitude to the specifics of topography, so that the man-made constructions ... float as the intermediate zone in three bands of colour’, albeit suggesting that it is unfinished, ‘a circumstance which has hitherto prevented the correct identification of the scene’ as the island of San Giorgio itself, with its church and campanile, seen to the south-east across the Bacino from the direction of the Hotel Europa3 (the Palazzo Giustinian), where Turner was staying; see the Introduction to this subsection. The church would have been visible both directly from his elevated room (see Tate D32219; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 34) and from the Grand Canal entrance of the hotel.
On close examination, Warrell’s identification is corroborated by the presence of four slight verticals across the pale wash to the right of the tower, corresponding with the engaged columns on San Giorgio’s entrance front below its central dome, as seen frequently in Turner’s pencil sketches; compare also the contemporary colour study, Tate D32165 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 28). Warrell has linked the present sheet with a more finished view north across the Bacino from south-west of the church (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge)4 on similar paper (see the technical notes below): ‘Both share the same palette, most notably for the diluted green of the Lagoon, and they were evidently painted in the same session.’5 He has also noted that the lines beginning to articulate the forms here were added with a pen dipped in watercolour,6 and speculated that had this been taken further the effect could have been similar to that in a view of San Giorgio from the east (also Fitzwilliam Museum),7 with its delicate web of dark red detail.8
See Finberg 1930, p.173.
Wilton 1975, p.146
Warrell 2003, p.198.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.464 no.1362, reproduced.
Warrell 2003, p.198.
See ibid., pp.199, 273.
Wilton 1979, p.464 no.1361, reproduced.
See Warrell 2003, p.204.
Technical notes:
Further to the discussion of technique above, no pencil is evident, while a little opaque white was added to the tower on the left and the dome towards the right. The perfunctory reflection of the campanile was initially reserved. There is some mottled staining at the top right and down that edge, perhaps connected with the 1928 Tate Gallery flood, and also evident on the verso.
In the section of his 1909 Inventory listing Venice subjects on ‘White paper, &c.’, Finberg differentiated the Venice studies Tate D32148–D32152 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 11–15) as ‘on a slightly yellowish coarse’1 support which he later described as ‘sugar-loaf paper’.2 Among them, this is one of a few 1840 Venice works Ian Warrell has noted as on ‘Pale buff wove paper, produced by an unknown maker, with the watermark: “J W”’:3 Tate D32148–D32149, D32169, D32211, D32219, D32247 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 11, 12, 32, CCCXVII 26, 34, CCCXVIII 28); see also Venice from the Lagoon (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; discussed in the main catalogue entry above),4 and The Rialto, Venice and The Palazzo Balbi on the Grand Canal, Venice (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh).5 Warrell has noted paper conservator Peter Bower’s suggestion ‘that this type of paper was a deliberate forgery of Whatman paper and was possibly produced in Austria’,6 and that the ‘inferior quality has resulted in visible changes to the paper, which is especially prone to fading’.7
Finberg 1909, II, p.1018; see also Wilton 1974, p.154, and Wilton 1975, pp.138, 142, 143, 146 (adding Tate D32153; CCCXVI 16), Wilton 1976, p.148, Wilton 1982, p.60, and Wilton 1983, p.287.
Finberg 1930, p.173.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 4) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Wilton 1979, p.464 no.1362, reproduced.
Ibid., respectively p.464 no.1369, reproduced, p.465 no.1372, reproduced.
See 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.110 under no.63.
Warrell 2003, p.259.
Blank, with dark irregular patches at the top left and along the top edge, possibly dating from the 1928 Tate Gallery flood (see also the technical notes above); stamped in black ‘CCCXVI – 11’ over Turner Bequest monogram below centre; inscribed in pencil ‘D32148’ bottom right.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, across the Bacino from the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian) 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-church-of-san-giorgio-maggiore-venice-across-the-bacino-r1197016, accessed 22 June 2021.