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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Grand Canal, Venice, towards the Palazzi Pisani Moretta and Barbarigo, from near the Palazzo Grimani 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Grand Canal, Venice, towards the Palazzi Pisani Moretta and Barbarigo, from near the Palazzo Grimani 1840
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 28
Pencil, watercolour and gouache on grey wove paper, 191 x 281 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCXVII – 28’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Long considered a view of the ‘Grand Canal (above the Rialto)’,1 this scene was tentatively and plausibly identified by Lindsay Stainton as ‘looking across the Grand Canal from the corner of the quay between the Pescheria and the Palazzo Brandolin towards the Ca’d’Oro (on the extreme right)’,2 north-west of the Rialto Bridge and bend. In fact, as Ian Warrell established,3 the subject is elsewhere, albeit not far away; the viewpoint is instead south-west of the bridge, looking west along the canal from its south side. To the right of centre opposite are the adjoining Palazzo Pisani Moretta and Barbarigo della Terrazza, the latter distinguished by its distinctively low wing at the entrance to the Rio di San Polo. Compare the more detailed pencil studies in the 1819 Milan to Venice sketchbook (Tate D14454; Turner Bequest CLXXV 72a) and the 1833 Venice book (Tate D32085; Turner Bequest CCCXIV 84a).4
There seem to be slight indication of the pitched roof of the Palazzo Balbi in the distance towards the left before the canal turns sharply out of sight to the south. The highest building in the generalised run of palaces on the left is apparently the Palazzo Grimani, seen from various angles elsewhere 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showing some of the painter’s worst and final faults; but also, some of his peculiar gifts in a supreme degree.’5 In an unpublished catalogue of 1880 he included it as one of a smaller ‘Glorious grey [paper] group’.6 Robert Upstone has characterised the ‘restricted palette of blue, red, black and white’ as producing ‘a harmonious colour structure of great beauty’.7 In discussing a technically similar 1840 river view of Regensburg (Tate D36151; Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 294), Cecilia Powell remarked that its ‘colouring, style and technique ... have much in common with those of Turner’s grey paper drawings of Venice of a fortnight or so earlier’ (giving the present sheet as an example), with the ‘juxtaposition of different blues, purples and muted reds and the use of vigorous penwork in a variety of inks for foreground details’.8
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.625; see also Finberg 1909, II, p.1025, and subsequent sources.
Stainton 1985, p.52; see also Upstone 1993, p.38.
See Warrell 2003, pp.158, 161.
As noted in Warrell 2003, pp.158, 264 note 17.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.384.
See ibid., footnote 1.
Upstone 1993, p.38.
Powell 1995, p.166.
Technical notes:
The sheet is somewhat irregular, with the top and right-hand edges sloping inwards to the top right corner. Most of the architectural and foreground detail is defined by fine parallel black and reddish-brown strokes, described by Robert Upstone as ‘close vertical pen and ink lines’;1 however, more recently Ian Warrell has described the use of ‘a pen dipped in watercolour for details’.2 Differences of interpretation on this technical issue are not uncommon in the cataloguing of Turner’s later work, and the point often remains moot.
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
Upstone 1993, p.38; see also Powell 19995, p.166.
Warrell 2003, p.272.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 8) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.464 no.1367, reproduced.
Not in ibid.; Warrell 2003, fig.233 (colour).
Warrell 2003, p.259.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.423 no.1037, reproduced.
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘29’ above right of centre, ascending vertically; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCXVI – 28’ towards bottom left.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Grand Canal, Venice, towards the Palazzi Pisani Moretta and Barbarigo, from near the Palazzo Grimani 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-towards-the-palazzi-pisani-moretta-r1196447, accessed 05 June 2020.