Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Schöllenen Gorge from the Devil’s Bridge, Pass of St Gotthard

1802

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite, watercolour and gouache on paper
Dimensions
Support: 470 x 314 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D04625
Turner Bequest LXXV 33

Catalogue entry

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.
It has been claimed that Turner’s Liber Studiorum plate Mt St Gothard was ‘loosely based’ on this drawing, via the study (Tate D08113; Turner Bequest CXVI L).3 However there seems no strong connection and the primary source is in the Lake Thun sketchbook (Tate D04719; Turner Bequest LXXVI 62).
1
Wilton 1979, p.341 no.366.
2
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.111–12 no.146 reproduced pl.155.
3
Forrester 1996, pp.55–6 note 1.
Verso:
Blank

David Blayney Brown
October 2011

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