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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Piazza, Campanile and Basilica of San Marco (St Mark's), Venice, from the Atrio of the Palazzo Reale 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Piazza, Campanile and Basilica of San Marco (St Mark’s), Venice, from the Atrio of the Palazzo Reale 1840
Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 26
Gouache and watercolour on red-brown wove paper, 319 x 238 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCXVIII – 26’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The viewpoint is the ground floor of the former Palazzo Reale, also known as the Ala Napoleonica and now housing the Museo Correr, at the west end of the Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square), looking out from the deep shade of the classical arcade leading from the square to the Calle Larga dell’Ascensione. To the east-north-east, the south side of the square fronted by the Procuratie Nuove is shown in strong afternoon light. The vista centres on the campanile of St Mark’s, with the west front and domes of the Basilica at the far end. As Ian Warrell has noted: ‘Looking through these arches made plain the great height of the tower, the full extent of which cannot readily be contained by the frame the architecture provides.’1
There appear to be silhouetted figures in the opening; assuming they are intended as adults, they are on about half the actual scale of their immediate setting, lending grandeur to the relatively modest archway (an effect the young Turner had sometimes employed even in his cathedral interiors2). Warrell has noted a pencil study from this corner in the 1833 Venice sketchbook (Tate D32011; Turner Bequest CCCXIV 44),3 and observed that such views from enclosed, darkened viewpoints ‘ultimately derived from Canaletto, who had used similar devices in some of his drawings and prints’.4 See for example the upright pendant paintings, Two Views of Piazza San Marco, of about 1756 and 1758 (National Gallery, London).
Compare Tate D32255 (Turner Bequest CCCXIX 7), a smaller horizontal variant on grey-brown paper showing a similar view from a little to the right, looking along the arcade beneath the Procuratie Nuove (just visible on the right here) as well as the square. See also a vertical view through a Gothic archway (D32246; CCCXVIII 27), and another horizontal arcade subject (D32257; CCCXIX 9).5
The present sheet was inadvertently listed twice in Finberg’s 1909 Inventory;6 the first instance, Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 2,7 was assigned the subsequently cancelled Tate accession number D32221.
Warrell 2003, p.126.
See for example Matthew Imms in Ian Warrell ed., Franklin Kelly and others, J.M.W. Turner, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington 2007, p.33.
See Warrell 2003, p.263 note 18.
Ibid., p.126.
Ibid., p.263 note 18.
See Finberg 1930, pp.175, 176, and Warrell 1991, p.41.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1026, as ‘Campanile of St. Mark’s’.
Technical notes:
The centre of the sheet has darkened considerably owing to exposure during prolonged display as part of the First Loan Collection, when broad strips around the edges were protected by a mount.
This is one of numerous 1840 Venice works Ian Warrell has noted as being on ‘Red-brown paper made at Cartieri Pietro Milani Mill, Fabriano, with a watermark showing the letter “M” accompanied by laurel leaves:1 Tate D32224, D32227, D32230, D32238–D32241, D32245–D32246, D32248, D32251, D32254 (Turner Bequest CCCXVIII 5, 8, 11, 19–22, 26, 27, 29, CCCXIX 3, 6). As Warrell has observed; the support ‘seems to be quite absorbent, so that the colours penetrate through to the back of the sheet’.2
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 9) in Warrell 2003, p.259; see also Peter Bower, Turner’s Later Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1820–1851, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, p.111 under no.64; and Warrell 2003, p.259, sections 10 and 11, for other likely Italian (possibly Fabriano) brown papers.
Ibid., section 9.
Laid down on thin conservation tissue paper; staining from dark recto colours evident but any inscriptions obscured.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Piazza, Campanile and Basilica of San Marco (St Mark’s), Venice, from the Atrio of the Palazzo Reale 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-piazza-campanile-and-basilica-of-san-marco-st-marks-r1197045, accessed 21 September 2021.