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Inspired by his work for James Hakewill, Turner went to Italy for the first time in 1819 armed with an itinerary supplied by the author.
Turner's own view of the Rialto is more lively and expansive than the Hakewill version. It was taken from a bit further from the bridge to include the massive Grimani Palace and, next in line, the Albergo Leone Bianco, where both Hakewill and Turner stayed.
This sun-filled watercolor was one of six Italian subjects that Turner painted for his greatest patron and friend, Walter Fawkes.