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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Venice across the Bacino from near the Rio dell'Arsenale, with Santa Maria della Salute and the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark's) in the Distance 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Venice across the Bacino from near the Rio dell’Arsenale, with Santa Maria della Salute and the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) in the Distance 1840
Turner Bequest CCCXVI 22
Pencil and watercolour on white wove paper, 246 x 304 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCXVI 22’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The Turner scholar C.F. Bell annotated Finberg’s 1909 Inventory entry (‘Riva degli Schiavone’): ‘From the Ponte della Veneta Marina’.1 In 1857, John Ruskin had described the subject as the Riva ‘with the Bridge over the Rio dell’ Arsenale’.2 Elsewhere, Finberg suggested: ‘(The Bridge on the right may be the Ponte della Cà di Dio.)’3 These are three consecutive bridges near the Arsenale east of the Riva degli Schiavoni, each a little to the west of the next as given here, and similar enough to make it unclear whether Turner intended to depict one in particular towards the right.4
There are similar prospects in Tate D32157–D32158 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 20, 21); the present view may be from slightly further off, while sharing a striped awning with the second,5 a rather more hectic composition both in terms of its colouring and the busily populated foreground. Compare a vigorous pencil sketch of a similar waterfront view, including an awning, in the contemporary Venice and Botzen D31844 (CCCXIII 28).
Ian Warrell described the colour studies as among those likely derived from Canaletto’s panoramic Bacino compositions.6 He has noted John Ruskin’s grouping of ‘a series of views along the rambling Riva degli Schiavoni, which suggests that Turner explored its length by foot, as well as from the water’: Tate D32120 (Turner Bequest CCCXV 4) from the contemporary Grand Canal and Giudecca sketchbook, and D32157–D32160 (CCCXVI 20–23) in the present grouping,7 to which Warrell added D32167 and D32168 (CCCXVI 30, 31),8 linked by ‘the brilliant sunshine refracted by the surface of the Bacino’.9
The distant blue-violet silhouettes of Santa Maria della Salute, west across the Canale di San Marco and the Bacino on the left, and the campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) suggest strong, hazy afternoon light. In 1857 Ruskin idiosyncratically described the effect as ‘the first twilight ... which immediately precedes the sunset’ (whereas the ‘“second” twilight, a peculiar flush, like a faint reflection of the sunset, ... succeeds the first twilight, after some minutes’).10 Whether Turner intended or even considered such a subjective refinement seems perhaps unlikely; for a supposed ‘second twilight’, see Tate D32161 (Turner Bequest CCCXVI 24). On a more empirical point, Ruskin observed:
The beak of a gondola shoots out from beneath the bridge. I have chosen this sketch chiefly for the sake of this incident; for a gondola is in nothing more striking to a stranger than in the unexpected dart of its beak – apparently by its own impulse, (the rower not being seen until the stern of the boat appears) – from under the arch of a bridge, seen as this is in strong light, while the boat’s beak is always dark, if not black; and it is interesting to find Turner fixing on this as the leading incident of a composition.11
See also Ruskin’s comments on the gondolier in D32160; Warrell has called him ‘right to draw attention to the impact made on the composition by the prow of the gondola. ... Turner sometimes renders these boats in an incomplete manner, so that it is not always obvious what he has depicted. For example, the canopy of a gondola floats truncated in the background of one view, before disappearing under a bridge’ (D32167 (CCCXVI 30).12
Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1020.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.212; see also p.373 (1881).
Finberg 1930, p.174.
See also Warrell 1995, p.102.
See Warrell 2003, p.230.
Ibid., p.47.
Warrell 1995, p.100.
See Warrell 2003, pp.227, 265 note 36.
Ibid., p.227.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.212 and footnote.
Warrell 1995, p.102.
Technical notes:
The paper towards the bottom right is largely bare, with the gondolas and various waterfront details deftly ‘drawn’ in strokes of dilute black.
This is one of numerous 1840 Venice works Ian Warrell has noted as on sheets of ‘white paper produced [under the name] Charles Ansell,1 each measuring around 24 x 30 cm, several watermarked with the date “1828”’:2 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)3 and Venice: The New Moon (currently untraced)4 ‘may belong to this group’.5
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 ‘58’ top left and ‘19’ bottom left, upside down; stamped in black ‘CCCXVI – 22’ over Turner Bequest monogram.

Matthew Imms
July 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Venice across the Bacino from near the Rio dell’Arsenale, with Santa Maria della Salute and the Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) in the Distance 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-venice-across-the-bacino-from-near-the-rio-dellarsenale-with-r1196994, accessed 19 April 2021.