Turner’s label for this drawing is probably the one inscribed ‘Chateau de Aoust’, a title retained by John Ruskin and for the early displays at the National Gallery where it was shown with a version in watercolour painted after Turner’s return to England (Tate D04895; Turner Bequest LXXX B).
The drawing is quite carefully studied from Turner’s first impression of the Château d’Argent, its tower silhouetted against the snowy slopes of Mount Emilius, also from this sketchbook (D40200). As David Hill points out, Turner saw the castle as he approached Villeneuve from the Fort Roch road. With its frame of trees the composition is classically treated, reflecting the fact that this stretch of Turner’s tour in 1802 was effectively his first sight of Italy. John Ruskin remarked the ‘classicalness’ of Turner’s views of the Roman architecture of Aosta (see, from this sketchbook, D04501–D04503; Turner Bequest LXXIX 9–11) and thought this subject showed that the artist was ‘yet hampered by old rules and precedents. He is still trying to tame the Alps into submission to Richard Wilson’.1
The watercolour, particularly delicate yet brilliantly coloured, omits most of the flock of sheep in the foreground here, and kept only the trunk of the left-hand tree.
Ruskin on Pictures; Cook 1902, p.225.