Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Baths of St Didier, near Courmayeur, Val d’Aosta


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk, gouache and graphite on paper
Support: 286 × 214 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXIV 52

Catalogue entry

The title ‘Gorge of Trient’ was given to this drawing by John Ruskin but Turner’s label for it is inscribed, more correctly with regard to topography if not French, ‘Les Bains chaud Le Pic du Petit St Bernard’. St Didier is below Courmayeur in the Val d’Aosta, at the foot of the Little St Bernard Pass. The village was famous for its warm springs whose water, at 92°F, was warmer than that found at Courmayeur. No doubt Turner took the opportunity to bathe, and his drawing shows the old bath house nestling beneath the rocks at the entrance to the gorge; the remains of this building survive today although by the time of Turner’s second visit in 1836 it had been replaced by a new pavilion.1 Identifying Turner’s subject, David Hill quotes a passage from John Murray’s Handbook for Travellers in Switzerland (1838) describing ‘the enormous precipices of bare rock which overhang the source of the mineral waters, and form one side of a deep inaccessible gulf, through which the torrent from the glaciers of the Ruitor and the Little St Bernard forces its way. The hot spring lies up this gulf almost as far as it is accessible; from this spot it is led by tubes to a building niched in beneath the precipices.’2
Hill 2000, p.280.
Hill 1992, p.72.
Laid down

David Blayney Brown
September 2011

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