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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Grand Canal, Venice, from under the Rialto Bridge, Looking towards the Palazzo Grimani 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 81 Recto:
The Grand Canal, Venice, from under the Rialto Bridge, Looking towards the Palazzo Grimani 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXV 81
Pencil on white wove paper, 112 x 185 mm
Partial watermark ‘lee | 13’
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘Bl[...]’ and ‘Poles’ below right of centre, on and beside boat, and ‘[...]’ bottom left
Inscribed by John Ruskin in blue ink ‘81’ bottom left, upside down and ‘300’ top left, upside down (now faint)
Stamped in black ‘CLXXV 81’ top left, upside down
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, the drawing continues across folio 80 verso opposite (D14469). When this leaf was rebound and stamped after being displayed in the nineteenth century, Finberg’s 1909 Inventory sequence, clear from his descriptive titles for the recto and verso, was disrupted. The present page was, by the implication of an ‘a’ suffix in his Inventory, the verso in his estimation, but it has since been bound as the recto and stamped as ‘81’; it was evidently, by its subject and more light-affected condition, the exhibited side. For a discussion of the twelve leaves removed and restored in this way, see the technical notes in the sketchbook’s Introduction.
The verso, D14471, is marked ‘Chisa St Apostoli’ by Turner, thus corresponding with Finberg’s Inventory entry ‘80a | 81. View on the Grand Canal near the “Chiesa SS. Apostoli”. Page 81 is reverse of Exhibited drawing, No.602i, N.G.’, he subsequently annotated the printed text, crossing out the title and ‘reverse of’, indicating that this side was the one exhibited, corresponding to his entry for ‘81a’, ‘The fruit market. Exhibited drawing, No.602i, N.G.’, which he conversely altered by inserting ‘(Reverse of)’ before ‘Exhibited’.1 In the same copy he made a fresh note in an attempt at clarification, bracketing ‘80a’ and ‘81’: ‘V. from Rialto looking twds P. Grimani. – Riva del Vino on right, with Cerroni & Tollotti Palaces on right, and Manin, Bembo, Riva del Carbon, & Loredan, Farsetti on left, with Grimani Palace in distance’.2
The continuous view here and on D14469 is south-west along the Grand Canal from directly under the single arch of the Rialto Bridge, of which there are faint, arcing indications at the top corners. In the foreground is the Riva del Ferro; the building with arched windows and shutters remains at the entrance to the Calle Ceria. At the centre of the page, bisected by a tall mast, is the classical Palazzo Dolfin-Manin, with the adjoining Gothic Palazzo Bembo beyond. Side by side further on are the two regular façades of the Ca’ Loredan and Ca’ Farsetti, below the bulk of the east side of the Palazzo Grimani di San Luca, the front of which is at the gutter. At the top left is a separate study of a figure encumbered with various bulky items, presumably observed at the scene.
In 1930 Finberg described ‘the quaint shapes of the boats laden with wood, casks of wine, reeds, and Heaven knows what, that were crowded along the quays on either side’ below Turner’s prospect from ‘the Fondamenta di Ferro to the Grimani palace’.3 He compared the view with an engraving after Canaletto’s painting Venice: The Grand Canal from the Rialto to the Palazzo Foscari of about 1725–6 (Royal Collection, Hampton Court) ‘to see how few and slight were the alterations in the buildings which had been made in the intervening century. The points of view are nearly the same, but the line of sight is different, Canaletto’s view having been taken from the summit of the bridge, while Turner’s drawing must have been made from a boat’.4
Probably not long after his return from Italy in 1820, Turner developed this view in a very large but unfinished painting, The Rialto Venice (Tate N05543),5 now in poor condition, but likely intended as a companion piece6 to the identically sized and even more spatially ambitious Rome from the Vatican, exhibited in that year (Tate N00503).7 There is also an unfinished watercolour of The Grand Canal from below the Rialto Bridge, Venice (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin),8 possibly intended for his friend and patron Walter Fawkes9 to complement the view towards the bridge in The Rialto, Venice of 1820 or 1821 (Indianapolis Museum of Art),10 based on folios 73 recto and 74 recto (D14455–D14456).
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.515.
Ibid., opposite p.515.
Finberg 1930, p.49.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.152 no.245, pl.248.
See ibid., p.152.
Ibid., pp.137–8 no.228, pl.231 (colour).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.383 no.725, pl.160.
See ibid., Barbara Dawson, Turner in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin 1988, p.105, Warrell 2003, pp.101, 263 note 8, and Niamh Mac Nally in Anne Hodge and Mac Nally, The Works of J.M.W. Turner at the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin 2012, pp.64, 66.
Wilton 1979, p.383 no.718, pl.156.
Technical notes:
Finberg subsequently annotated his 1909 Inventory entry for this page as ‘do’, i.e. ditto, referring to a preceding note, ‘stained by flood | 13/8/29’,1 following inspection after the Tate Gallery flood of January 1928.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

MS note by Finberg in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.515.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Grand Canal, Venice, from under the Rialto Bridge, Looking towards the Palazzo Grimani 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-grand-canal-venice-from-under-the-rialto-bridge-looking-r1186582, accessed 24 January 2022.