As he had already done on Lakes Como and Lugano, Turner toured Lake Maggiore by boat, leaving Luino and heading west toward Baveno, see folios 76–78 verso (D14290–D14297; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 75–78a). The two sketches on this page represent views of the Borromean Gulf at the western tip of the lake.
The upper vista is part of a larger view continued on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 76 verso (D14291; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 75a). The subject is a view of the Borromean islands from the east and visible on this side is the coast of the mainland with the village of Feriolo in the distance.1 The lower vista meanwhile depicts Isola Madre, the largest of the islands within the Borromean Gulf.2 Turner’s viewpoint is from the south with the Palazzo Borromeo and its terraced gardens directly in front of him, and he has furthermore annotated the sketch with the position of the St Gotthard Pass in the Swiss Alps to the north. Along with the other Borromean islands Isola Madre was a popular subject for artists. As a young man, Turner had made a copy of a watercolour from the collection of Dr Thomas Monro with Thomas Girtin (see Tate 36532; Turner Bequest CCCLXXV 11). A further comparable composition to this sketch is John ‘Warwick’ Smith’s watercolour, Isola Madre, Lago Maggiore, c.1781 (Yale Center for British Art).