Joseph Mallord William Turner

Martigny, for Rogers’s ‘Italy’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 253 × 286 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 154

Catalogue entry

Martigny was engraved by William Cooke and appears as the end-piece of the affecting seventh section of Rogers’s Italy, which recounts the tale of Marguerite de Tours.1 Marguerite was a native of the Roman town of Aosta who eloped with a man from the Swiss town of Martigny, hence the subject of this vignette. The city of Aosta meanwhile provides the subject for the section’s head-piece (see Tate D27662; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 145). Rogers ends his poem by revealing that Marguerite was also his hostess in Martigny:
  May all good angels guard her
And should I once again, as once I may,
Visit Martigny, I will not forget
Thy hospitable roof, Marguerite de Tours;
Thy sign the silver swan. Heaven prosper Thee!
(Italy, p.28)
Marguerite’s ‘hospitable roof’ appears in Turner’s vignette as the building bearing the inscription ‘La Cygne’, a clear illustration of Rogers’s reference to the ‘sign of the silver swan.’ To be sure that his engravers accurately reproduced his intended inscription, Turner also inscribed it in a neat cursive hand on the top margin of the sheet.
With the newly built Simplon Pass to the east and the Great St Bernard Pass to the south, Martigny was accustomed to receiving travellers making their way to and from Italy. Turner himself passed through the town after re-entering Switzerland via the St Bernard Pass. During his visit he made a number of sketches in pencil and chalk on brown paper, some of which clearly served as inspiration for this later vignette design. David Hill has noted the relationship between the vignette and Turner’s sketch of Martigny which shows a procession in the rain with a view towards La Bâtiaz (see Tate D04580; Turner Bequest XXIV 87).2 However, the mood and composition of Turner’s sketch Martigny: La Batiaz, overlooking a busy street (Tate D04547; Turner Bequest LXXIV 54) is even more closely related.
Martigny is unusual among Turner’s Italy vignettes for its numerous references to the artist’s own travels in Switzerland. The cabriolet in the lower left of the image is modelled after the one that Turner himself used and sketched in 1802 (see Tate D24028; Turner Bequest LXXIV 5a).3 He and his travel partner, Neweby Lowson, had bought the two-wheeled carriage in Paris, taking it as far as Geneva. After they finished their arduous Alpine trek they arranged for it to be brought to meet them in Martigny.4 The hotel that appears in the vignette can also be related to Turner’s personal experience. One of Rogers’s many revisions in Italy was to change the last verse of this section from ‘Thy sign the golden sun’ to ‘Thy sign the silver swan.’5 It seems likely that Rogers swapped swan for sun in order to personalise the scene for Turner, who stayed in a hotel called The Swan when he visited Martigny.6 The inn was very popular with British visitors and Rogers may have wished to pay a personal tribute to the landlord who according to Jennings’ Landscape Annual for 1830 had recently been killed in a deluge.7
Samuel Rogers, Italy, London 1830 p.28; W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. vol.II, London 1913, no.355. There are two impressions in Tate’s collection (T04642 and T04643).
Hill 1992, pp.92–93.
Ibid., pp.90–1.
Ibid., p.91.
Powell 1983, p.4.
Cook and Wedderburn (eds.) 1903–12, vol.XIII, p.203.
Jennings’ Landscape Annual, p. 77, see Piggott 1993, p.37.
Piggott 1993, p.39.

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

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