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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Grand Canal, Venice, with Santa Maria della Salute and the Palazzo Corner della Cà Grande 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Grand Canal, Venice, with Santa Maria della Salute and the Palazzo Corner della Cà Grande 1840
Turner Bequest CCCXV 6
Pencil and watercolour on white wove paper, 221 x 325 mm
Inscribed by Turner in watercolour BA[?LB]I’ bottom left
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCXV – 6’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The view is from the south side of the Grand Canal, looking east towards the Bacino. As Ian Warrell has noted, Turner’s slightly unclear inscription in watercolour at the bottom left (probably ‘BALBI’,1 but tentatively transcribed as ‘BAIDI’ in earlier publications2), appears to relate to the bottom right corner, where the rusticated structure is the ground-floor wing curving forward at the side of the entrance to the Palazzo Balbi Valier, detached but immediately west of the Palazzo Loredan-Cini, with its twin balconies high above the entrance to the Rio di San Vio. Beyond is the sunlit west side of the Palazzo Barbarigo3 overlooks the Campo San Vio, with the adjoining Palazzi Da Mula Morosini and Centani Morosini further on.
Receding towards the centre are the lower Ca’ Biondetti, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni,4 and Casa Artom, with the west side of the higher Palazzo Dario catching the light at the near end of a compressed run of palaces which today terminate with the prominent Gothic-revival Palazzo Genovese. The porch of the Dogana is lightly indicated at the centre, overlooking the entrance to the canal and the distant Bacino. Above this sequence rise the Baroque domes and campanili of the church of Santa Maria della Salute, catching the early afternoon light from the south. The largest building on the left is the Palazzo Corner della Cà Grande5 (now with modern windows on the blank west side shown here). Turner was staying at the Hotel Europa (the Palazzo Giustinian), not far beyond on that side; see the parallel subsection of Europa subjects.6
In 1857, reflecting his intense interest in Venetian architecture, John Ruskin characterised this work as:
A study of local colour, showing the strong impression on the painter’s mind of the opposition of the warm colour of the bricks and tawny tiles to the whiteness of the marble, as characteristic of Venice. He is not, however, right in this conception. When, in ancient days, the marble was white, the brick was covered with cement and frescoes; and the lapse of time, which has caused the frescoes to fall away, has changed the marble to a dark or tawny colour.
The colour of the tiles in this sketch is exactly true, when seen under afternoon sunlight. Painters are apt usually to represent them of too pure a red.7
Ruskin’s editors linked this passage with observations he made in 1878:8 ‘I have noticed elsewhere that Turner’s later Venices, when introducing much architecture, were often spoiled by his leaving the buildings too white. This was a morbid result of his feeling that he never could get them bright enough in their relation to the blue or green of the sea, and black of the gondolas.’9
In the context of a long, subjective discussion of supposed stylistic weaknesses in some of the 1840 Venice watercolours, Finberg nevertheless conceded that ‘there are flashes of the familiar vigour and decision. The dome and tower of the Salute, for instance, in cccxv, 6 and cccxvi, 1, are struck in with all the old force and fire’.10 The second work mentioned is Tate D32138, a contemporary watercolour sheet from a different viewpoint west of the Salute but with a similar effect of strong light from the right defining the sculptural forms of the church’s domes, in this case with the brightest parts left as blank paper within the loose pencil outlines. Being ‘defined more by what has been omitted than by a slavish realisation of their actual appearance’, as Warrell has described them,11 the domes are lit ‘so powerfully that they become disembodied’.12 Compare the effect in the 1819 watercolour view of the Dogana from the Como and Venice sketchbook, with the dome of the Zitelle church in the distance defined only by the interplay of shadow and the light eating into it from one side (Tate D15256; Turner Bequest CLXXXI 6).
Finberg considered a watercolour of The Grand Canal, with the Salute (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford),13 from the dismembered contemporary ‘Storm’ sketchbook (see the present book’s Introduction), ‘an unsuccessful attempt to elaborate the [present] brilliant sketch’.14 Luke Herrmann has noted that ‘the view-point differs very considerably’;15 the dome in the Oxford view is touched with white, and the shadows may suggest a later time of day, albeit the yellowing of its similar paper has altered the effect. Warrell has compared the view with that in an 1827 painting by Richard Parkes Bonington which Turner knew;16 he had also been familiar with this particular prospect even before first visiting Venice in 1819, making a watercolour around that time (private collection)17 based on a detailed pencil view by James Hakewill (British School at Rome)18 in connection with the latter’s Picturesque Tour of Italy, although Turner’s interpretation was not engraved.
Warrell has noted that about half the views associated with this sketchbook depict the ‘long canyon of palaces’ winding north and south of the Rialto Bridge along the ‘central part’ of the Grand Canal: D32117–D32119, D32123, D32131, D32132, D32134–D32137 (Turner Bequest CCCXV 1, 2, 3, 7, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21).19 In addition, this page, D32121 and D32124 (CCCXV 5, 8) show scenes near its north-west and south-east ends, while D32178 (CCCXVI 41) is a central subject now also linked to the book. For sites beyond the Grand Canal, see the sketchbook’s Introduction.
See Warrell 2003, p.164.
Wilton 1977, p.77, Wilton 1982, p.59, Stainton 1983, p.88, Stainton 1985, p.55, and Warrell 1995, p.107.
See Stainton 1985, p.55.
See Warrell 2003, p.164.
See Stainton 1985, Wilton 2001, p.328, and Warrell 2003, p.164.
See also Warrell 2003, p.168.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.213; reprinted in Warrell 1995, p.107; also partly quoted in Wilton 1982, p.59; see also Stainton 1985, p.55.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.213, footnote 3.
Ibid., p.499; reprinted in Warrell 1995, p.107.
Finberg 1930, p.125; both works are reproduced for comparison ibid., pl.XXII.
Warrell 1995, p.107.
Warrell 2003, p.164.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.464 no.1363, reproduced; Stainton 1985, pl.93 (colour); Warrell 2003, fig.177 (colour).
Finberg 1930, p.[152].
Herrmann 1968, p.84.
See Warrell 2003, p.104; see also Stainton 1985, p.74; Patrick Noon, Richard Parkes Bonington: The Complete Paintings, New Haven and London 2008, p.285 no.226, as ‘Entrance to the Grand Canal, with Santa Maria della Salute’.
Not in Wilton 1979; Warrell 2003, fig.33 (colour).
Warrell 2003, fig.32 (colour).
See Warrell 1995, p.108.
Blank, save for some slight spattering or offsetting of grey colour towards the bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘6’ at centre; inscribed by John Ruskin in pencil ‘JR’ bottom left (possibly partly obscured by present mount); stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCXV – 6’ towards bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘CCCXV. 6’ bottom right.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Grand Canal, Venice, with Santa Maria della Salute and the Palazzo Corner della Cà Grande 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-with-santa-maria-della-salute-and-the-r1196833, accessed 17 May 2022.