Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘The Chapel of William Tell’, 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: 169 × 239 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 105

Catalogue entry

This simple watercolour study consists of faint washes of blue paint and a pencil sketch of a structure resembling William Tell’s Chapel, the subject of Turner’s second illustration for Rogers’s Italy (see Tate D27672; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 155). Turner made two studies of Tell’s chapel during his trip to Switzerland in 1802, one of which shows the chapel from a similar vantage point to the one presented here (see Tate D04731; Turner Bequest LXXVI 71). Rather than using Tell’s chapel to highlight the scale and magnificence of the surrounding Alpine landscape as he did in these earlier sketches, Turner’s primary focus here is the chapel itself. In the finished version of the vignette, Turner moved the chapel to the opposite side of the page but conserved the basic form and proportions of his original composition.
Turner produced this and three other preliminary studies for Italy vignettes on sheets of the same paper type and dimensions; it is possible that they originally formed part of a single sheet. The three related studies are Tate D27618, D27621, D27623; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 101, 104, 106. ‘Studies for Italy. Coarse, but noble’ are the words John Ruskin used to describe them on the wrapper in which they were once contained.1 Finberg records how Ruskin later described his phrasing in a letter to Ralph Nicholson Wornum as ‘horrible’, adding ‘I never meant it to be permanent’.2
Finberg 1909, vol.II, p.896.
Finberg 1909, vol.I, p.xi..
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘AB 83 P’ and ‘R’ top left, inverted and ‘CCLXXX 105’and ‘D27622’ bottom right

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

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