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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Grand Canal, Venice, with the Rialto Bridge beyond Palazzi Including the Grimani and Papadopoli 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 73 Recto:
The Grand Canal, Venice, with the Rialto Bridge beyond Palazzi Including the Grimani and Papadopoli 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXV 73
Pencil on white wove paper, 112 x 185 mm
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘Tragetto di S Benetto | Chapelo Morozini’ towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CLXXV 73’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner’s note ‘Tragetto di S Benetto’ indicates his viewpoint here, about level with the Calle Traghetto Vecchio on the south side of the Grand Canal, looking north-east to the Rialto Bridge and the Fondaco dei Tedeschi at the bend beyond; above the roofs on the 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, while those beyond include the Ca’ Farsetti and Ca’ Loredan along the Riva del Carbon, with the Palazzo Dolfin Manin immediately below the tower. Coming forwards below the Grimani in the right foreground are the Palazzi Corner Contarini dei Cavalli, Tron and D’Anna Viaro Martinengo Volpi di Misurata.1
The view continues directly to the left along the north side of the canal across what is now folio 74 recto (D14456). Unfortunately, in the course of restoring the numerous pages extracted from this sketchbook for display at the National Gallery in the nineteenth century, this leaf was misbound, presumably during general Turner Bequest restoration work at the British Museum after the Tate Gallery flood in 1928 (see the technical notes in the sketchbook’s Introduction for a full listing of the exhibited leaves). This drawing has been bound as the recto, whereas it should be the verso, inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation and directly continuous with D14456. The presence of John Ruskin’s inscriptions ‘73’ and ‘300’, now upside down at the corners of the verso, ought to have been an indication, as such numbers appear in sequence on the rectos of undisturbed pages. The whole composition was reproduced from pre-flood photographs in Finberg’s In Venice with Turner, retouched to remove the division between the pages, themselves untitled there but with the watercolour based on them (as discussed below) reproduced beneath as ‘The Rialto, 1820. Water-colour in the collection of Major F.H. Fawkes. With the pencil sketch from nature’.2
This page and the inner half of D14456 were the direct source for the watercolour The Rialto, Venice (Indianapolis Museum of Art)3 which Turner made in 1820 or 1821 for his friend and major patron Walter Fawkes of Farnley Hall in Yorkshire4 among other Venetian and Italian scenes;5 it is listed in the 1821 Paris, Seine and Dieppe sketchbook (Tate D18540; Turner Bequest CCXI 10). Finberg noted that ‘the pencil sketch is more accurate than the water-colour. The design is somewhat similar to that of the Hakewill engraving.’6 This is a reference to the composition Turner had produced in watercolour (currently untraced)7 which was engraved in 1820 for James Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy (Tate impression: T06012; for the project in general, see Nicola Moorby’s overall Introduction to the tour) as The Rialto, Venice. As with other Italian subjects predating the present tour, Turner had interpreted Hakewill’s 1817 drawing, but he made detailed sketch of his own from a similar viewpoint nearer the bridge on folios 48 verso–49 recto (D14406–D14407); the Hakewill subject is discussed under D14406.
Finberg compared the viewpoints and relative positions of the buildings in the Hakewill and Fawkes designs, noted the lateral compression in the latter which made the canal appear too narrow relative to the heights of the palazzi, while the bridge and the Fondaco dei Tedeschi beyond too large;8 as Ian Warrell has suggested: ‘Working from his own sketches gave Turner a greater confidence to telescope and distort scale’.9 The sense of heightened focus in the watercolour, which Lindsay Stainton has described as ‘even more crowded than the Hakewill view, and also more animated and more imposing’10 was also extended to the slightly toy-like gondolas Turner introduced in the foreground,11 taking his cue from those sketched here. The mass of overlapping sails below the campanile here is transcribed quite closely into the watercolour, and when it came to the shipping in the foreground on the north side Turner had to make a virtue of necessity, emphasising the picturesque effect of the arcing shapes of the large sails which had impeded his view of the waterfront buildings on D14456.
This page and D14456 also informed the vertical-format oil painting The Grand Canal, Venice, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1837 (Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California);12 Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll noted: ‘As Dr [Robert R.] Wark has shown, the picture is based on two pencil sketches in the “Milan to Venice” sketchbook (CLXXV pp.72 verso and 73, although only part of the drawing on the left-hand page is used in the oil)’.13 That the unrelated view in the other direction now bound opposite as folio 72 verso (D14454) is apparently cited as ‘the left hand page’ is presumably owing to confusion over the sequence of extracted leaves discussed above; as with the Fawkes watercolour, the relevant ‘left-hand’ continuation is actually D14456. In fact, in the publication Butlin and Joll cited, Wark correctly reproduced both relevant pages without citing their folio numbers,14 so the issue arose subsequently.
The detailed architectural background in the 1837 painting is more faithful to the proportions of the present sketch, albeit occupying only about an eighth of the height of the canvas, half of which is sky and the rest a broad, densely populated expanse of canal, with the relative proportions of the Grimani and the buildings on its near side significantly increased to produce a greater effect of spatial recession. Compare also the similar view in watercolour of about 1840 (Tate D32212; Turner Bequest (CCCXVII 27), perhaps made as a reprise of the 1837 painting upon Turner’s revisiting the site.15
In his 1909 Inventory, presumably by an oversight, Finberg did not follow his usual convention of listing this page as an ‘Exhibited drawings, ... N.G.’ item.16 However, the title he gave, ‘Casa Grimani and the Rialto’, matches Ruskin’s for one of the twelve exhibited pages from this book, the other eleven of which are accounted for and noted by Finberg in individual entries forming a sequence from 602a–c and e–m (omitting 602j), which equate to the pages listed in the earlier literature.17 Like the others, this page has darkened considerably from exposure and was clearly exhibited, and it is listed as such in the ‘Conspectus’ matching former National Gallery numbers with the recently established Finberg/Turner Bequest numbers in the 1912 bibliography and addenda volume of Ruskin’s works.18 By comparing the sequence established by Ruskin and Finberg’s equivalents, the present page must be the omitted ‘602d’. Indeed, Finberg subsequently annotated a copy of the Inventory, bracketing ‘reverse [sic] of 73’ with ‘74’, describing the former as ‘Looking down (?up) from the To a S. Benedetto twds the Rialto: with Palaces Martinengo, Cavalli, Grimani, Farsetti & Loredan, on r. cf. the Farnley Hall w. cr | Exh. Dg 602d’.19
For other drawings made in the vicinity and an overview of Turner’s coverage of Venice, see the sketchbook’s Introduction.
See Finberg 1930, p.46.
Finberg 1930, p.XIII.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, p.383 no.718, pl.156, citing Turner’s drawing from nearer the bridge (folios 48 verso–49 recto; D14406–D14407) as the source.
See also Finberg 1930, p.46, Stainton 1985, p.52, Krause 1997, p.140, and Warrell 2003, pp.101, 263 note 6.
Wilton 1979, p.383 nos.719–724.
Finberg 1930, p.71.
Wilton 1979, p.381 no.700.
See Finberg 1930, p.71; see also Krause 1997, p.140.
Warrell 2003, p.101.
Lindsay Stainton, Turner’s Venice, London 1985, p.17.
See Finberg 1930, p.71.
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.219–20 no.368, pl.373 (colour).
Ibid.; see also George 1984, p.20 note 4, Warrell 1995, p.108, 2001, p.146, and Warrell 2003, p.74.
See Wark 1971, pp.125–6, figs.96 and 97; see also Wark 2001, pp.121, 123, figs.96 and 97.
See Warrell 2003, pp.74, 151; see also Stainton 1985, pp.51–2 no.37, and Wilton 1986, p.244.
See Finberg 1909, I, p.515.
See Cook and Wedderburn 1904, pp.303–4 nos.253–264, and p.636 no.602.
E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn eds., Library Edition: The Works of John Ruskin: Volume XXXVIII: Bibliograghy; Catalogue of Ruskin’s Drawings; Addenda et Corrigenda, London 1912, p.388.
Undated MS note by A.J. Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, opposite p.515.
Technical notes:
The page has darkened owing to prolonged display in the nineteenth century, as discussed above.
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.
MS note by A.J. Finberg in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.515.
Blank; inscribed by John Ruskin in blue ink ‘73’ bottom left, upside down and ‘300’ top left, upside down.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Grand Canal, Venice, with the Rialto Bridge beyond Palazzi Including the Grimani and Papadopoli 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-with-the-rialto-bridge-beyond-palazzi-r1186567, accessed 24 November 2020.