Joseph Mallord William Turner

Mountain Scene with Castle, Probably Martigny


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 438 × 540 mm
frame: 635 × 740 × 100 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

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Through Paris and the Alps, Turner was accompanied by Newbey Lowson, a country gentleman of similar age, and an amateur draughtsman who was himself keen to sketch the picturesque scenery abroad. Lowson, who acted as Turner’s ‘paymaster’ for the tour, largely determined his itinerary. From Grenoble, they travelled to Geneva, Chamonix and Aosta, and crossed the Great St Bernard Pass to the Swiss town of Martigny, halfway into the tour. Once thought to be Wales, this view is now believed to be of Martigny, featuring the thirteenth century Château de la Bâtiaz, depicted in several of Turner’s pencil drawings.

Gallery label, February 2010

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Catalogue entry

145b. [N00465] Mountain Scene with Castle, probably Martigny c. 1802–3

Canvas, 17 1/4 × 21 1/4 (44 × 54)
Coll. Turner Bequest 1856 (94, ‘Mountain Scene with Castle’ 1'9" × 1'5 1/2"); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1910.
Exh. Richard Wilson Tate Gallery, 1925 (67); Tate Gallery 1934 (6); Amsterdam, Berne, Paris, Brussels,

Liege (2), Venice and Rome (3), 1947–8; Cardiff 1951; R.A. 1974–5 (35).

Lit. Thornbury 1862, i, p. 262; 1877, p. 418; Armstrong 1902, p. 225; MacColl 1920, p. 3; Davies 1946, p. 187; Rothenstein and Butlin 1964, p. 10, pl. 8, Wilkinson 1972, p. 72, repr.; Andrew Wilton in exh. cat., Llandudno and Swansea 1984, p. 50.

Until recently this was thought to be a view in Wales and it has in fact been related to sketches in the ‘Dinevor Castle’ sketchbook, which Turner was using in 1978, especially those tentatively identified as Caer Cennen (XL-37 verso and 38, repr. Wilkinson, loc. cit., and 39 verso and 40; see also XL-84 verso, repr. Wilkinson, p. 73, and XLVI-107 from the ‘Dolbadarn’ sketchbook of 1798–9).

However, the relationship to the castle seen in the ‘Dinevor Castle’ sketchbook is not exact and Andrew Wilton, comparing the castle to that in the watercolour of Martigny executed c. 1827 and engraved by W.B. Cooke for Rogers's Italy (CCLXXX-154) (repr. Russell and Wilton 1976, p. 65), is convinced that the painting shows La Bâtiaz at Martigny, seen by Turner on his first visit to the Alps in 1802. The peaks of the mountains also seem to be too sharp for Wales and closer to those in the Alps. Drawings of La Bâtiaz also appear in the ‘Grenoble’ sketchbook, used on the 1802 visit (LXXIV, especially pp. 54, 64 and 87) and in a colour beginning c. 1820 (CXCVI-Q), on paper water-marked 1813 (repr. in colour Russell and Wilton op. cit., p. 72). Turner does not seem to have visited Martigny again after 1802. He presumably painted this work back in England, interpreting the scene in the matter of Salvator Rosa just as he had interpreted Bonneville in the manner of Poussin (Nos. 46 and 50).

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984

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