Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Hospice at the Summit of the Great St Bernard Pass


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk, graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 210 × 282 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXIV 4

Catalogue entry

Turner’s label for this drawing is inscribed ‘Le Sumit de Mt Bernard’ [sic]. This is the closer of two views from this sketchbook of the Hospice at the summit of the Great St Bernard Pass. The other, seen from the approach to the buildings, is D04548; Turner Bequest LXXIV 55. In both, Turner shows three figures on the path beside the small lake in front of the Hospice. Here they seem to be monks although their number matches Turner’s own small party including his travelling companion Newbey Lowson and their guide. They would have taken a day to climb to the summit from Aosta and the drawing shows evening sunshine striking the walls of the buildings.
The Hospice of St Bernard dates back to at least the ninth century A.D. Turner later used this drawing as the basis for his vignette Hospice of the Great St Bernard engraved by W.R. Smith for Samuel Rogers’s Italy (1830), where it accompanied the poet’s description of the pass and the monks’ tradition of rescuing stranded, snow-bound travellers. For the watercolour for the vignette see Tate D27670; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 153. Noting the connection in his catalogue entry for the National Gallery, John Ruskin described the present drawing as Turner’s ‘first sketch of the St Bernard’.
Blank, inscribed perhaps by a later hand in pencil ‘no.4’, and by other later hands ‘LXXIV W’, ‘LXXV 4’ and ‘Grosse St Bernhard’

David Blayney Brown
September 2011

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