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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Molo and Piazzetta, Venice, from the Bacino, with the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace), the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark's), and Santa Maria della Salute in the Distance 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Molo and Piazzetta, Venice, from the Bacino, with the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s), and Santa Maria della Salute in the Distance 1840
D32180
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 1
Gouache and watercolour on grey wove paper, 193 x 279 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCXVII – 1’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This view, laterally truncated and simplified for pictorial effect, is supposedly from the Bacino just south of the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), looking north-west to the campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) from close to the Molo quay, judging by the relative proportions of the palace and the two columns at the entrance to the Piazzetta. The tower would be on the diagonal from such an angle, and the palace appears proportionately too large, even allowing for its nearness. As Ian Warrell has observed:
From this study it is only just possible to determine that there is an arcade at ground level, above which sits a highly decorated gallery, with quatrefoil openings set into the spaces between ogee arches. The use of white paint, however, nicely differentiates the marble of these two levels from the warmer colours of the upper walls ...1
A more specific detail is the Austrian sentry box silhouetted at the corner of the palace, seen again in a contemporary night-time view of the Piazzetta.2 Beyond the columns, the Libreria Sansoviniana and the Zecca are compressed, and the whole waterfront running west to the entrance of the Grand Canal is effectively omitted in order to include the domes of the Salute to the south-south-east at the far left.3
Compare the more accurate if selectively detailed pencil study in the contemporary Venice and Botzen sketchbook (Tate D31801; Turner Bequest CCCXIII 6), which does not extend beyond the Zecca. See also a finished contemporary watercolour on white paper, The Doge’s Palace and the Piazzetta (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin),4 encompassing a similar view with the space again compressed to include the Salute. Warrell has also noted a fortuitous similarity with the composition of an unfinished oil painting, Venice, the Piazzetta with the Ceremony of the Doge Marrying the Sea of about 1835 (Tate N04446).5
This sheet was inadvertently listed twice in Finberg’s 1909 Inventory;6 the second instance, Turner Bequest CCCXVII 33,7 was assigned the subsequently cancelled Tate accession number D32218.
1
Warrell 2003, p.119.
2
See ibid.
3
See ibid.
4
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.463 no.1356, reproduced.
5
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.296 no.501, pl.510 (colour); see Warrell 2003, p.119.
6
See Finberg 1930, p.175, and Warrell 1991, p.41.
7
Finberg 1909, II, p.1026, as ‘Piazzetta’.
Technical notes:
There is no underlying pencil work. The white gouache has been applied quite thickly, with its surface left textured in places. The whole sheet has darkened owing to prolonged display in one of the early Turner Bequest Loan Collections, except for strip at the edges, most notably along the bottom, formerly protected by a mount.
This is one of numerous 1840 Venice works Ian 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’:1 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)2 and The Doge’s Palace from the Bacino (private collection),3 and two further ‘half-size sheets’:4 Tate D33883 (Turner Bequest CCCXLI 183), and Shipping with Buildings, ?Venice (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge).5
1
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 8) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
2
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.464 no.1367, reproduced.
3
Not in ibid.; Warrell 2003, fig.233 (colour).
4
Warrell 2003, p.259.
5
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.423 no.1037, reproduced.
Verso:
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘15’ above centre, ascending vertically; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCXVII – 1’ bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘D32180’ towards bottom right.
There is a small splash or offset of blue colour at the top centre.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Molo and Piazzetta, Venice, from the Bacino, with the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s), and Santa Maria della Salute in the Distance 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-molo-and-piazzetta-venice-from-the-bacino-with-the-r1197036, accessed 26 September 2020.