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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Grand Canal, Venice, near the Palazzo Grimani, with the Rialto Bridge Beyond ?1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Grand Canal, Venice, near the Palazzo Grimani, with the Rialto Bridge Beyond ?1840
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 27
Pencil, watercolour and gouache on grey wove paper, 195 x 282 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCXVII – 27’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner’s viewpoint here was about level with the Calle Traghetto Vecchio on the south side of the Grand Canal, looking north-east to the Rialto Bridge, with the Fondaco dei Tedeschi at the bend beyond it. Above the roofs on its right is the campanile of San Bartolomeo. The tallest of the buildings shown complete on the right is the Palazzo Grimani di San Luca, now Venice’s Appeal Court. Coming forwards below it are the Palazzi Corner Contarini dei Cavalli and Tron, fading out towards the right. The scene is much the same as in a more spontaneous, less deliberately composed watercolour view on buff paper (Tate D32211; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 26);1 there the focus shifts to the left, with the right foreground in less detail and the Palazzo Papadopoli introduced on the left.
The view evoked various associations for Turner,2 and is effectively the same that in a detailed pencil study in the 1819 Milan to Venice sketchbook (Tate D14455–D14456; Turner Bequest CLXXV 73, 74). That prospect had been used for a watercolour, The Rialto, Venice (Indianapolis Museum of Art),3 made in 1820 or 1821 for Turner’s friend and patron Walter Fawkes. Its composition echoed that of a watercolour (currently untraced),4 engraved in 1820 for James Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy (Tate impression: T06012) as The Rialto, Venice, based on Hakewill’s own sketch. These works had also informed the upright-format oil painting The Grand Canal, Venice, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1837 (Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California).5
Finberg tentatively linked the present sheet to the 1837 work.6 Along with the majority of Turner’s Venice watercolours, it is now considered likely to post-date the painting, so any conscious similarity would have been retrospective.7 Cecilia Powell has compared the accents of yellow here with the ‘sunburst of gold’ in a study of Burg Bischofstein on the River Mosel, firmly dated to the 1840 tour (Tate D28966; Turner Bequest CCXCII 19),8 which adds to the circumstantial case; there has been debate about whether some of the other Venice views on grey paper might be earlier (see Tate D32205–D32210; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 20–25).
Compare other views beside and behind the Palazzo Grimani (Tate D32214–D32216; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 29–32) in this subsection.
Without further elaboration, in 1881 John Ruskin categorised this work among twenty-five Turner Bequest subjects ‘chiefly in Venice. Late time, extravagant, and showing some of the painter’s worst and final faults; but also, some of his peculiar gifts in a supreme degree.’9
See Finberg 1930, p.175, and Warrell 2003, pp.151, 264 note 11.
See Stainton 1985, p.52, Warrell 1995, p.108, and Warrell 2003, p.74.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, p.383 no.718, pl.156.
Ibid., p.381 no.700.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.219–20 no.368, pl.373 (colour).
See Finberg 1930, p.175.
Stainton 1985, p.51, dates the sheet ‘1840?’ (albeit in common with many others now accepted as executed in that year); see Warrell 2003, p.151, for slight reservations in this case as against a firm dating to 1840 in most instances, and p.272 for his dating of ‘c.1840’.
Powell 1995, p.153.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.384.
Technical notes:
There is a short, closed tear to the top edge, about a third of the way across from the left.
Lindsay Stainton described Turner’s mixed technique here as including ‘pen and ink’ for the linear, reddish-brown details;1 more recently Ian Warrell has noted Turner’s ‘using a pen dipped in watercolour for details’.2
This is one of numerous 1840 Venice works Warrell has noted as being on ‘Bally, Ellen and Steart grey paper’ which Turner had also used on his Continental tour of 1833, including Venice, and therefore ‘the dating of some of these sheets in uncertain’ (see in particular Tate D32205–D32210; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 20–25); the following ‘seem to arise from the later visit’:3 Tate D32180–D32181, D32183–D32184, D32200–D32201, D32203–D32204, D32212, D32215, D32217 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 1, 2, 4, 5, 15, 16, 18, 19, 27–30, 32); see also Venice: San Giorgio Maggiore and the Zitelle from the Giudecca (currently untraced)4 and The Doge’s Palace from the Bacino (private collection),5 and two further ‘half-size sheets’:6 Tate D33883 (Turner Bequest CCCXLI 183), and Shipping with Buildings, ?Venice (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge).7
Stainton 1985, p.51.
Warrell 2003, p.272.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 8) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Wilton 1979, p.464 no.1367, reproduced.
Not in ibid.; Warrell 2003, fig.233 (colour).
Warrell 2003, p.259.
Wilton 1979, p.423 no.1037, reproduced.
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘28’ right of centre, ascending vertically; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCXVII – 27’ towards bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘D32212’ and ‘CCCXVIII.27’ bottom centre.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Grand Canal, Venice, near the Palazzo Grimani, with the Rialto Bridge Beyond ?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-grand-canal-venice-near-the-palazzo-grimani-with-the-r1196446, accessed 18 May 2022.