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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Rooftops of Venice, with the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark's) and San Giorgio Maggiore, from the Hotel Europa Palazzo Giustinian) at Sunrise 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Rooftops of Venice, with the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) and San Giorgio Maggiore, from the Hotel Europa Palazzo Giustinian) at Sunrise 1840
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 106
Watercolour on white wove paper, 198 x 280 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Inscribed in red ink ‘106’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCLXIV – 106’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Finberg later annotated his generic 1909 Inventory entry (‘Sunset’, in a large grouping of ‘Miscellaneous: colour’ sheets): ‘Venice CFB’.1 The initials are those of the Turner scholar C.F. Bell, who marked his own copy ‘Venice’.2 The discovery of the exact subject was a gradual process. Even before the Inventory E.T. Cook had called it an ‘Italian Sketch’;3 Luke Herrmann was first to suggest Venice in print;4 then Andrew Wilton recognised the general aspect of the view, ‘Presumably looking from the Dogana towards the Campanile of St. Mark’s on the left, the Doge’s Palace centre, and S. Giorgio Maggiore at the extreme right’,5 although it continued to be known as a sunset view until Lindsay Stainton tentatively modified Wilton’s topographical description, describing it as ‘Looking eastwards towards the Campanile of St Mark’s: sunrise?’ 6
In fact, once compared with more conventional 1840 colour studies, the scope of this one becomes clear, ranging north-east to the campanile and south-east to the dome of San Giorgio, seemingly shrouded in mist across the Bacino at the far right.7 There are selective foreground details picked out in grey outline over the washes, including a dormer window or small penthouse, also shown in related views. This was likely on the roof of the Palazzo Vallaresso Erizzo (now the Hotel Monaco), immediately east of the Hotel Europa (Palazzo Giustinian), where Turner was staying, in a room apparently high up in its north-east corner; see the Introduction to this subsection. The campanile is seen through a window in Tate D32219 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 34), and aspects of the vista are explored under a range of day and night effects (including moonlight, fireworks and a flash of lightning) in Tate D32142, D32173, D32179, D32224, D32229, D32254 and D35882 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 5, 36, 42, CCCXVIII 5, 10, CCCXIX 6, CCCLXIV 43).8
Compare also the softer effect, likely also observed around dawn, in a laterally condensed view of the campanile and two others north and north-west of the Europa (Tate D32140; Turner Bequest CCCXVI 3).9
Leo Costello has described this work’s ‘searing colors’, in a discussion of ‘Turner’s sensual engagement with materiality’.10 Strong central sunrise and sunrise effects are among the most recognisable elements of the artist’s repertoire; for other examples see the grouping in the present author’s ‘Colour Studies of the Sun, Skies and Clouds c.1815–45’ section of the present catalogue.
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1183.
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1183.
Cook 1905, p.25.
See Herrmann 1970, p.11.
Wilton 1974, p.156.
Stainton 1985, p.64.
See Warrell 2003, p.140.
See also Stainton 1985, p.61, and Warrell 2003, pp.24, 138.
See also Warrell 2003, p.138.
Costello 2012, p.177.
Technical notes:
Lindsay Stainton has characterised the palette here as among Turner’s ‘most dramatic colour combinations: an intense violet, set off with lilac and pale yellow and touches of orange and scarlet’.1 Nicola Moorby has described him working ‘swiftly, dropping brushloads of liquid orange and red into the surrounding wet yellow wash (a technique known as charging)’.2
This is one of seven 1840 Venice works Ian Warrell has noted as on ‘sheets of white paper probably made [under the name] Charles Ansell.3 These measure approximately 19.8 x 28.4 cm (indicating that they were folded and torn into eight pieces from an imperial sheet)’:4 Tate D32140, D32165, D32179, D35882, D35949, D36192 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 3, 28, 42, CCCLXIV 43, 106, 334); see also San Giorgio Maggiore from the Hotel Europa, at the Entrance to the Grand Canal (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester).5 Warrell has noted that an ‘eighth sheet’, Tate D32166 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 29), ‘seems to relate to this group, both technically and in terms of its size, but this has been identified by paper conservator Peter Bower as paper produced by Bally, Ellen and Steart’.6
Stainton 1985, p.64.
Moorby 2014, p.113.
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 1) in Warrell 2003, p.259.
Not in Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979; Warrell 2003, fig.148 (colour).
Warrell 2003, p.259; see Bower 1999, pp.105–7 under no.59.
Blank, save for what may be a slight offset of violet-grey colour at the top right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCLXIV – 106’ bottom right.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Rooftops of Venice, with the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) and San Giorgio Maggiore, from the Hotel Europa Palazzo Giustinian) at Sunrise 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-rooftops-of-venice-with-the-campanile-of-san-marco-st-r1197034, accessed 24 June 2021.