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For Turner’s visit to the St Gotthard Pass and Reuss gorge in 1802 see Introduction to the sketchbook and notes to D04628; Turner Bequest LXXV 36. In this watercolour, Turner looks down the Schöllenen Gorge and the Reuss Valley from the centre of the Devil’s Bridge; for his view in the opposite direction, back towards the bridge, from this sketchbook see D04626; Turner Bequest LXXV 34.
This watercolour served as the basis of the large, finished version, The Passage of Mount St Gothard, Taken from the Centre of the Teufels Broch (Devil’s Bridge), Switzerland, made for Walter Fawkes and shown at the opening exhibition at Turner’s Gallery in 1804 (Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal).1 This work must be the ‘Gt. Devils Bridge causeway’ given in a list of projects in the Academies sketchbook (Tate D05244; Turner Bequest LXXIV 69). In 1803 or 1804, Turner also made a painting (City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham),2 and another from D04626, apparently for the wine merchant John Allnutt, who may well have ordered them direct from the drawings. The Birmingham oil reproduces the present composition almost exactly but adds a wayside cross near the kneeling figure at the most precarious point in the road. The Kendal watercolour is the most evolved treatment of the subject, giving an even greater sense of the dizzying height and depth of the gorge and adding mules to the road on the left.
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Joseph Mallord William Turner, Thomas Girtin In the Pass of St Gotthard, Switzerland