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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Dogana, Venice, across the Grand Canal, with the Zitelle Church on the Giudecca Beyond 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 40 Recto:
The Dogana, Venice, across the Grand Canal, with the Zitelle Church on the Giudecca Beyond 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXV 40
Pencil on white wove paper, 112 x 185 mm
Partial watermark ‘Al | 18’
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘Red B [?Y]’ towards bottom right, over figures
Inscribed by John Ruskin in blue ink ‘40’ bottom left, upside down and ‘300’ top left, upside down
Stamped in black ‘CLXXV 40’ top left, upside down
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Finberg annotated his 1909 Inventory title (‘The Custom House, Venice’): ‘with the Citella’ (sic).1 The Turner scholar C.F. Bell marked another copy: ‘Zitelle in the distance Seminario to r’.2 Bell similarly extended Finberg’s title in his 1930 In Venice with Turner (‘The Dogana and Zitelle, from the calle beside the Europa Hotel’): ‘the Seminario on the right’.3
Looking south across the Grand Canal, the view is centred on the monumental porch of Venice’s customs house, the Dogana di Mare, with the dome and twin bell towers of the church of Le Zitelle (Santa Maria della Prezentatione) across the Giudecca Canal to the south-south-east. Turner’s low viewpoint was in front of the Palazzo (or Ca’) Giustinian, later the Hotel Europa, and can be recognised today from the stage outside what is now the headquarters of the Venice Biennale, while the Dogana now houses the Punta della Dogana contemporary art museum. In his 1930 book Finberg noted the detail towards the top right of a ‘naked lady ... holding a flag and standing on a ball supported by two giants’ as ‘an enlarged version of the gilt weathercock which surmounts the turret’.4 He observed that the ‘shape of the turret ... now seems to be wider and flatter at its base than in the drawing’, although Turner’s depiction agrees with earlier artists’, and assumed that the discrepancy was down to subsequent restoration.5
One of Turner’s handful of 1819 Venice watercolours in the Como and Venice sketchbook, Tate D15256 (Turner Bequest CLXXXI 6), shows the same view, and Andrew Wilton has suggested that the present drawing informed it;6 Ian Warrell has noted that the pencil study establishes ‘the essence’ of the view.7 The composition also equates to the right-hand half of the much later oil painting The Dogano, San Giorgio, Citella, from the Steps of the Europa, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1842 (Tate N00372).8 Whether the present drawing was necessarily a direct source has been debated: Martin Butlin has observed that the view would have been so familiar to Turner by then ‘that recourse to a drawing may not have been necessary’.9 A watercolour of about 1840, The New Moon (the Punta della Dogana, with the Zitelle Beyond) (private collection)10 is also comparable with the parameters of the present view.
While Lindsay Stainton has observed that D15256 and a second Como and Venice watercolour, Tate D15254 (Turner Bequest CLXXXI 4) effectively form a panorama foreshadowing the 1842 painting,11 Warrell has noted that this drawing, in conjunction with other pages in this sketchbook showing views to the left (folio 66 verso; D14442) and to the right (folio 54 verso; D14417), could have been utilised.12
Finberg correctly pointed out that the building above the Dogana’s skyline on the right, the Seminario Patriarcale, ought really to have been excluded, being proportionately ‘about four of five inches [some 100–125 mm] beyond the limits of Turner’s paper’ had the Dogana’s long, low north front been continued to scale: ‘Turner wanted, however, to make a note of the way this portion of the seminary broke the monotonous line ... trusting to his memory to make the necessary correction in case he used the sketch’, but apparently he forgot or ignored the issue in the 1842 painting, where the distant building ‘appears in exactly the same position’,13 which perhaps reinforces the case for Turner referring directly to this page on that occasion. Although the distortion is not quite so extreme, he also introduced the Seminario at the right of his 1819 watercolour, so presumably felt it was needed compositionally as a vertical accent.
For other drawings made in the vicinity and an overview of Turner’s coverage of Venice, see the sketchbook’s Introduction.
Undated MS note by A.J. Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.513.
Undated MS note by C.F. Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.513.
Undated MS note by Bell (before 1936) in copy of Finberg 1930, Prints and Drawings Study Room, British Museum, London, p.163, as transcribed by Ian Warrell (undated notes, Tate catalogue files).
Finberg 1930, p.24.
Ibid., p.27.
Wilton 1975, p.52.
Warrell 1993, p.292; Warrell 1994, p.116.
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.245–6 no.396, pl.400 (colour); see also Wilton 1975, p.52.
Butlin 1974, p.152, and Butlin and Joll 1984, p.245; see also George 1984, p.20 note 4, Stainton 1985, p.70, and Warrell 2003, p.207.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.464 no.1365; see also Butlin 1974, p.152, and Butlin and Joll 1984, p.245.
See Warrell 2003, pp.88 and 263 note 6, citing Stainton 1985, p.42.
Ibid., p.263 note 6; see also Warrell 2008, pp.57, 67 note 3.
Finberg 1930, p.27.
Technical notes:
The page is darkened, having formerly been extracted from the sketchbook and subjected to prolonged display, except where the edges were protected by a mount.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Dogana, Venice, across the Grand Canal, with the Zitelle Church on the Giudecca Beyond 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, March 2017, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, July 2017, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-the-dogana-venice-across-the-grand-canal-with-the-zitelle-r1186502, accessed 25 July 2021.