J.M.W. Turner - ‘The Piazzetta, Venice’, 1840. Watercolour and gouache on paper. 22.1 x 32.1 cm (National Galleries of Scotland). So dramatic, this could be almost be a theatrical backdrop to an operatic production! Lightening strikes the column of San Theodore which stands in the Piazzetta, (the small square between the Palazzo Ducale and the Marciana Library in Venice). To the left, in the background, St Mark’s Basilica appears as a ghostly apparition. The left portion of the west facade of the Palazzo Ducale is lost in a vaporous mist. Close and patient inspection of this image will reveal its magnificence, so pinch those fingers and zooom-in!
It’s thrilling to remember that Turner’s greatest admirer, and the man that dedicated so much of his 5 Volume publication of ‘Modern Painters’ to his work; John Ruskin (1819-1900), spent so much time painting the same buildings we see in this scene. Both artists were inspired to record the geometric patterns created by the tile work on the upper part of the Palazzo Ducale. Both men depicted the domes and finials of St Mark’s in the same medium. Ruskin’s watercolour of the sea facade of the Ducale Palace was painted in 1852, just 12 years after Turner painted this image.