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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Piazzetta, Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace) and New Prisons from the Bacino, Venice, with Moored Boats 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Piazzetta, Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) and New Prisons from the Bacino, Venice, with Moored Boats 1840
Turner Bequest CCCXVI 34
Watercolour on white wove paper, 245 x 310 mm
Watermark ‘C Ansell | 1828’
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Inscribed by John Ruskin in blue ink ‘1573’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCXVI – 34’ bottom right, and again top left, upside down
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The view is from the Bacino, off the Molo south of the entrance to the Piazzetta on the left, with the column of St Mark aligned with the west front of the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), and the domes of the Basilica lightly indicated beyond. To the right are the New Prisons, and then the Riva degli Schiavoni running east without further identifiable buildings.
Compare the colour and atmosphere, and crowded boats, of a more developed contemporary study, Tate D32154 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 17), an evening scene from a little closer in and looking further east; the effect of warm and cool banded colours is also seen for example in D32155, D32156 and D32172 (CCCXVI 18, 19, 35) in this grouping.
Ian Warrell has compared the composition and effect here with a hazy, unfinished oil painting, Riva degli Schiavoni, Venice: Water Fete, of about 1843–5 (Tate N04661).1 See also some of the lightly rendered watercolour studies of boats and distant waterfronts showing the 1844 arrival of Louis-Philippe at Portsmouth Harbour, such as Tate D35888 or D35957 (Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 48, 114).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.297 no.507, as c.1845, pl.508 (colour); see Warrell 2003, pp.222, 265 note 24.
Technical notes:
The sheet is somewhat darkened at the centre from early display, with fresher paper and colour evident at the edges where they were protected by a mount – or rather mounts, as concentric strips of intermediate fading evident around the sky suggest that window mounts with two distinct apertures were used for prolonged periods.
Lindsay Stainton has noted that Turner’s ‘ability to develop a pictorial composition with colour and tone rather than solid form is illustrated in this schematic watercolour ... creating an effect of space through the juxtaposition of washes of colour without relying on traditional procedures for drawing perspective’, the architecture being articulated with ‘the merest flicker of pen and red ink’,1 as she described it, although it is often a moot point as the whether such details were added in ink or watercolour, with a pen or the point of a fine brush.
Three curving diagonal depressions or creases are evident in the centre of the foreground, where the swiftly applied, broad washes used for the water left the lowest parts bare. Turner seems to have instinctively exploited this adventitious rippled effect by adding darker reflections around these points in loose zig-zag strokes. Compare another waterfront study, Tate D32174 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 37), where matching ‘faults’ are evident. The sheets are of the same type, as outlined below.
This is one of numerous 1840 Venice works Ian Warrell has noted as on sheets of ‘white paper produced [under the name] Charles Ansell,2 each measuring around 24 x 30 cm, several watermarked with the date “1828”’:3 Tate D32138–D32139, D32141–D32143, D32145–D32147, D32154–D32163, D32167–D32168, D32170–D32177, D35980, D36190 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 1, 2, 4–6, 8–10, 17–26, 30, 31, 33–40, CCCLXIV 137, 332). Warrell has also observed that The Doge’s Palace and Piazzetta, Venice (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin)4 and Venice: The New Moon (currently untraced)5 ‘may belong to this group’.6
Stainton 1985, p.59.
Albeit 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.81, notes that the Muggeridge family had taken over after 1820, still using the ‘C Ansell’ watermark.
‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 2) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.463 no.1356, reproduced.
Ibid., p.464 no.1365.
Warrell 2003, p.259.
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘10’ top right, ‘3 V’ bottom left, and ‘D32171’ bottom right. For the possible significance of ‘V’ inscriptions on miscellaneous contemporary Venice sheets, see the Introduction to the tour.

Matthew Imms
July 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Piazzetta, Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) and New Prisons from the Bacino, Venice, with Moored Boats 1840 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, July 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-piazzetta-palazzo-ducale-doges-palace-and-new-prisons-r1197001, accessed 17 September 2021.