Joseph Mallord William Turner

Grenoble: the River Isère and Pont St Laurent


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and graphite on paper
Support: 214 × 284 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXIV 14

Catalogue entry

For Turner’s visit to Grenoble in 1802 see Introduction to the sketchbook and notes to D04495; Turner Bequest LXXIV 3.
Turner’s label for this drawing is inscribed ‘Ville de Grenoble Mt Blanc’ [sic]. From the south bank of the River Isère, Turner looks towards the wooden Pont de St Laurent in the general direction of the Porte de Savoie. The bridge, reinforced with stone piers to judge from the drawing, was for a long time Grenoble’s only bridge across the Isère. In 1837 it was replaced by a suspension bridge, the Passarelle St Laurent. Buildings include the fourteenth-century Tour de l’Île, part of the old city fortifications which had housed the French army of occupation in 1792, and on the far right a spire, perhaps that of Saint-André, the former chapel of the Dauphins, or the Cathedral. On the left, ramparts climb the slope to the Bastille. The Belledonne massif is visible in the background but not Mont Blanc, as Turner seems to have thought and as was repeated by the present writer in the 1999 Tate/Martigny catalogue. For comments and corrections, the author is grateful to Roland Courtot of the University of Aix-en-Provence.1
The initial ‘F’ on Turner’s label denotes a possible commission from Walter Fawkes. However, the subject is not included in the list of works for Fawkes in the Greenwich sketchbook (Tate D06824; Turner Bequest CII 52) but seems to have been assigned instead to his friend Edward Swinburne; ‘Ed Swinburne 40 Gn Grenoble’ is noted elsewhere in the same book (D16721; Turner Bequest CII 1) and at some point Turner also included ‘14 Grenoble’ in a list of French and Swiss subjects on the back of a random pencil sketch (Tate D08253; Turner Bequest CXX m). Nevertheless it was apparently only in 1824 that Turner produced the large watercolour Grenoble Bridge (Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland)2 for another patron, Charles Holford. Accordingly, in his catalogue notes for Marlborough House, John Ruskin wrote of this subject; ‘Exquisitely realised ... in a large drawing now in the possession of Mrs. Holford, of Hampstead’.3
Email dated 14 March 2012; copy in Tate catalogue files.
Wilton 1979, p.345 no.404.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.266.

David Blayney Brown
March 2012

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like