Joseph Mallord William Turner

Four Sketches of the Gallery of Gondo


View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 111 x 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXIV 90

Catalogue entry

This page contains one large detailed sketch, and three smaller studies of the Gallery of Gondo,1 one of five galleries or tunnels hewn out of the rock at strategic points along the Simplon road between Domodossola and Brig. These tunnels, built by Napoleon at the beginning of the nineteenth century, made passage through the mountains possible, even during times of heavy snowfall. The Gallery of Gondo was the longest of these passageways, measuring approximately 200 metres, and linked Simplon and Gabi to the west, with the town of Gondo to the east. The main sketch (left-hand side) look west from the Simplon road towards a bridge spanning the falls of the Alpienbach (also known as the Fressinone or Frassinone), which stood near the entrance of the tunnel on the eastern (Italian) side. Turner has also made three drawings on the right-hand side of the sheet with the sketchbook held vertically. These respectively depict (clockwise from top left): a study of the bridge; the entrance to the tunnel, described as a black arched hole); and a falling rock above the bridge.
The Gallery of Gondo (sometimes also known as the Grand Gallery) was widely considered by nineteenth-century travellers to be one of the most spectacular and dramatic parts of the Simplon route, and it formed the subject of numerous topographical prints. A near-contemporaneous publication illustrated with views by Gabriel Lory, for example, described the scene thus:
If there was nothing in the whole range of the tour of Mount Simplon worth visiting but the spot represented in this plate [View of End of the Grand Gallery Towards Italy], the length and inconvenience of the journey would be well repaid by that alone. The objects are all of the most striking description: the elegantly and artificially constructed bridge is admirably contrasted with the savage wildness of the surrounding scenery: the precipitous and impending rocks frown over the tasteful work of man, and seem indignant that it has been intruded into the recesses of their gloomy solitude.2

Nicola Moorby
January 2013

See Crimi 2007, pp.33 note 41 and Crimi 2009, p.46 note 18.
Jean Frédéric Ostervald, Gabriel Lory and Frederic Shoberl, Picturesque Tour from Geneva to Milan, by Way of the Simplon, London 1820, p.86.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.1112 (whereabouts unknown).
W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London 1913, vol.II, no.535.

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