Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Devil’s Bridge and Schöllenen Gorge


On loan

ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum (Aarhus, Denmark): Turner Watercolours: Sun is God

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite, watercolour and gouache on paper
Support: 471 × 318 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXV 34

Catalogue entry

For Turner’s visit to the St Gotthard Pass and Reuss gorge in 1802 see Introduction to the sketchbook and notes to D04628; Turner Bequest LXXV 36. Here, the Devil’s Bridge is seen looking up the Schöllenen Gorge and the Reuss Valley, with the Reuss Falls beyond. In 1803 or 1804, Turner made a painting (private collection)1 from this drawing, together with another2 based on the drawing also from this sketchbook taken from the centre of the bridge (D04625; Turner Bequest LXXV 33). Both were apparently commissioned by the wine merchant John Allnutt, who may well have ordered them direct from the drawings.
The Devil’s Bridge was destroyed during fighting between the French and Russians in 1799 and had just been rebuilt when Turner saw it in 1802. In his painting of this subject he added soldiers and pack-mules on the tracks on either side of the bridge. The soldiers’ white uniforms suggest they are Russian. In the drawing only a few figures appear but one on the left is touched with red; in the picture the soldiers’ baggage is also red.
Turner developed this drawing in landscape format as a plate for the Liber Studiorum, via an intermediate study (Tate N03631). The subject was evidently a pendant to Little Devil’s Bridge representing the Pfaffensprung or ‘Priest’s Leap’, a bridge encountered on an earlier stretch of the St Gotthard road towards the Italian border; for Turner’s drawing from of it from this sketchbook see D04628; Turner Bequest LXXV 36.
In manuscript notes made in 1880, John Ruskin, unaccountably, described the present drawing as ‘curiously bad’.3
Butlin and Joll 1981, p.112 no.147 (pl.154).
Ibid., pp.111–12 no.146 (pl.155).
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.371 note 1.

David Blayney Brown
August 2013

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