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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Rialto, from the Albergo Leon Bianco, after a Drawing by James Hakewill c.1818

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Rialto, from the Albergo Leon Bianco, after a Drawing by James Hakewill c.1818
Turner Bequest CCCXVI 7
Pencil and watercolour on paper, 182 x 266 mm
Stamped in black ‘CCCXVI 7’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
In this colour study pale washes of blue and yellowish–brown broadly denote a view of Venice’s Rialto. The sheet appears to be an early example of a ‘colour beginning’ made with a finished watercolour for a print project in mind; the first examples of this practice in the Turner Bequest date from around 1816–20 (see the section introduction to Colour Studies Relating to Whitaker’s ‘The History of Richmondshire’).1
The approach seen on this sheet stands apart, however, due to the addition of detailed pencil outlines, apparently traced from one of two drawings of the view made by James Hakewill (The British School at Rome Library). Lindsay Stainton suggested the tracing may have instead been made from Turner’s finished watercolour.2 However, the sheet bears closer relation to Hakewill’s drawing than to Turner’s watercolour as represented by the engraving by John Pye. Ian Warrell subsequently suggested that the colour was added secondly,3 but close examination, including consideration of areas in which the colour washes do not line up with the pencil outlines (for example, the differing representations of the tower to the right of centre), attests to the pencil details having been added on top ofthe watercolour washes of colour, rather than vice versa.
The sheet appears to represent an intermediate stage between Hakewill’s drawing and Turner’s finished watercolour The Rialto, Venice (untraced),4 which was engraved by John Pye (1782–1874) for Hakewill’s A Picturesque Tour of Italy (for a Tate impression see T06012). For further information about Turner’s involvement in this project, see the Introduction to this section.
The view shows the Grand Canal, with the Rialto Bridge on the left and a quay in the right foreground. Pye’s detailed etching and engraving of the scene reveals the ways Turner embellished what is laid out here within his finished watercolour: new details included clouds, awnings and a cast of characters. Ian Warrell has noted that Turner’s idea of Venice’s Rialto was shaped by its portrayal as the city’s hub within Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.5 He also referenced John Gage’s argument that a female figure in a feathered hat seen through a window in the lower right of Pye’s engraving (the window is also included within the present colour study) pre-empted Turner’s later painting, Jessica (Tate T03887; in situ at Petworth House).6
As noted in the introduction to this section, Hakewill initially employed eight artists to work on his Tour of Italy: this view was first imagined in watercolour by one of the others, J.A. Atkinson. A.J. Finberg concluded that Turner worked from Hakewill’s drawing, rather than Atkinson’s watercolour, due to various discrepancies between his and Atkinson’s versions of the scene. 7 While Hakewill’s drawing appears to have been Turner’s primary source for both this sheet and the finished watercolour, he may also have seen Atkinson’s depiction, which might possibly have influenced the distinctive shadow beneath the Rialto Bridge seen in Pye’s print.8 The variations between Hakewill’s drawing and Turner’s finished composition have also led commentators to suggest a third, unknown, Hakewill drawing may have provided the key source;9 this seems possible, although the variations may be better explained by Turner’s own application of imagination to the scene.
Turner finally saw this view with his own eyes during his 1819 tour of Italy, and made a detailed sketch across two pages of the Milan to Venice sketchbook (see entries for Tate D14406–D14407; Turner Bequest CLXXV 48a–49). His vantage point was lower than that chosen by Hakewill, who had worked from the window of his hotel, the Albergo Leon Bianco, which was also patronised by Turner in 1819.10
There are many discussions of the ‘colour beginnings’; for a useful introduction see Eric Shanes, ‘Beginnings’, in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann eds., The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, pp.21–3.
Stainton 1985, pp.57–8.
Warrell 2003, p.49.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, p.381 no.700, as 140 x 216 mm.
Warrell 2003, p.49.
See laid in photograph in Finberg’s Turner research scrapbooks, Prints and Drawings Study room at Tate Britain, vol.V, p.36.
Thank you to Matthew Imms, Tate Research Cataloguer, for this suggestion.
Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: a Catalogue of Drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome, Rome 1992, p.401.
See Warrell 2003, pp.16, 17.
Technical notes:
The corners of the pencil sketch, which was drawn on top of the watercolour, are marked out: the dimensions represented by the corners, which are rather approximately placed, match the recorded dimensions of Hakewill’s drawing (210 x 145 mm1). The pencil marks continue left of the corner marks, however, and the colour washes cover a significantly larger area. The finished print is in a slightly wider format than Hakewill’s drawing, the image measuring 220 x 140 mm.
Although the pencil drawing on this sheet appears to be a tracing, it is unclear how the tracing was achieved: the paper is of a weight to suggest it was not directly traced, and the marks do not appear to have been rubbed from another sheet. It is possible a device such as a pantograph was employed. One of the sketches Turner made in relation to his Perspective Lectures includes a diagram of a pantograph: see the catalogue entry by Matthew Imms (Tate D07471; Turner Bequest CVIII 71).
Ibid, p.50.
Blank, save for inscriptions: written in pencil ‘CCCXVI 7’ bottom right; stamped in black ‘CCCXVI-7’ lower centre; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram below centre.

Elizabeth Jacklin
July 2018

How to cite

Elizabeth Jacklin, ‘The Rialto, from the Albergo Leon Bianco, after a Drawing by James Hakewill c.1818 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, November 2019, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-the-rialto-from-the-albergo-leon-bianco-after-a-drawing-by-r1195600, accessed 25 May 2024.