This subject was first identified by John Ruskin, doubtless from the inscription ‘Contamines’ in Turner’s hand on the leaf originally adjoining it in the sketchbook (D04617; Turner Bequest LXXV 25). Turner passed through the village of Les Contamines, in the Val Montjoie, after climbing the Col de Voza and before negotiating the Col du Bonhomme, on his way from Chamonix to Courmayeur. He would have stayed overnight and the dawn light so vividly shown here, breaking over the ridge of Mont Blanc on the right, suggests an early rise before the long day’s trek over the Col du Bonhomme to Courmayeur. One of the groups of three figures sketched here might be Turner himself, his travelling companion Newbey Lowson and their guide.
In his catalogue note for the National Gallery, John Ruskin cited this drawing as evidence of the ‘gloomy cast of thought’ in the subjects from this sketchbook.1
Ruskin on Pictures; Cook 1902, p.228.
Inscribed by a later hand in pencil ‘1’