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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Dome of the Pentecost in the Basilica of San Marco (St Mark's), Venice, from an Aisle 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Dome of the Pentecost in the Basilica of San Marco (St Mark’s), Venice, from an Aisle 1840
Turner Bequest CCCXIX 4
Gouache and watercolour on grey-brown wove paper, 224 x 141 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom left
Stamped in black ‘CCCXIX 4’ bottom left, descending vertically
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Finberg later annotated his basic 1909 Inventory entry (‘Interior of a Church’): ‘St Mark’s’.1 The Turner scholar C.F. Bell marked another copy: ‘St Mark’s, looking across the nave’.2 Ian Warrell has described the subject as ‘the view from the southern nave, looking across the central space and up towards the great angels beneath the Pentecost dome’3 of the Basilica of San Marco. However, the loosely defined figures in white may be kneeling to the left, suggesting they face east, making the view southwards through the parallel open arcades, which support galleries flanking the dome supported on the spandrels where the mosaic angels hover.
The arcades are shown obliquely from the south-west in a rapid pencil drawing in the 1840 Venice and Botzen sketchbook (Tate D31812; Turner Bequest CCCXIII 11a). In reality both screens feature four arches, and Warrell has noted that in ‘the absence of any [precisely] related pencil sketches’, the ‘inexactness’ of various colour studies of views within the church ‘suggests that Turner created them solely from his general impressions’.4 See also Tate D32226–D32227, possibly D32231, and D32241 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 7, 8, 12, 22).
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1028.
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1028.
Warrell 2003, p.125.
Ibid., p.125.
Technical notes:
Ian Warrell has observed that this sheet was ‘formerly attached at [its] top edge’ to Tate D32258 (CCCXIX 10),1 a colour study of St Mark’s Square by night. The irregular top edge here fits the verso of the right-hand side of the latter, where the matching edge extends beyond a vertical crease which marks the edge of the painted area of the recto, suggesting that Turner worked on D32258 while the present section was folded behind it and still attached before being somewhat carelessly torn away. The sheets are among numerous 1840 Venice works 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).
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),3 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).
Cecilia Powell first noted that the same mid-toned papers were used for studies of Austrian sites that Turner only visited on the return leg of his 1840 tour, hence providing the key to dating the Venice subjects on brown and grey sheets to that year rather than the 1830s alternatives previously suggested; see the overall Introduction to the tour. She observed that Turner’s palette here is ‘strikingly similar’ to that used for a view of Hals and Burg Hals, near Passau (Tate D36162; Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 305).4
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 11) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Ibid.; see also sections 9 and 10.
See also Bower 1999, pp.111–12.
Powell 1995, p.161.
Blank; closed mount; Finberg records Turner’s inscription in ink: ‘2’.1 For Turner’s ink numbering of many similar sheets, see the tour’s Introduction.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

See Finberg 1909, II, p.1028.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Dome of the Pentecost in the Basilica of San Marco (St Mark’s), Venice, from an Aisle 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-dome-of-the-pentecost-in-the-basilica-of-san-marco-st-r1196478, accessed 27 July 2021.