J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner ?A Thunderstorm near a Bridge in the Alps, with a Coaching Accident 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 3 Verso:
?A Thunderstorm near a Bridge in the Alps, with a Coaching Accident 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXV 3a
Pencil on white wove paper, 112 x 185 mm
Partial watermark ‘lee | 13’
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The Turner scholar C.F. Bell annotated Finberg’s 1909 Inventory entry (‘A fountain (?)’), querying the proposed subject with a laconic further ‘?’.1 Finberg’s suggestion does indeed seem unusually questionable The subject, apparently included at random among architectural studies of Milan (see under folio 2 recto; D14328), appears rather to show a mountainous landscape with a high bridge, lit by lightning at the left and the crescent of a new moon at the right, with a jumble of shapes in the foreground that could equally well indicate rocks or huddled figures. Towards the top right is a thumbnail detail which may show a runaway coach followed by a bucking horse.
Folio 1 recto (D14326) shows a zigzag of lightning and billowing clouds, and may be a related observation, recollection or evocation of the same scene, perhaps stemming from Turner’s detour to the Simplon Pass as he travelled east across northern Italy, after which he made the Milan drawings here; see Nicola Moorby’s introduction to the present tour. The artist completed two watercolours of such adventures, made shortly after the winter return journey from each of his Italian tours, in 1820 and 1829: respectively Snowstorm, Mont Cenis (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery),2 with its bolting horses, and Messieurs les voyageurs on their return from Italy (par la diligence) in a snow drift upon Mount Tarrar – 22nd of January, 1829 (British Museum, London),3 with a group keeping warm round a fire.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

Undated MS note by C.F. Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.512.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.345 no.402, reproduced.
Ibid., no.405, pl.208.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘?A Thunderstorm near a Bridge in the Alps, with a Coaching Accident 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, March 2017, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, July 2017, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-a-thunderstorm-near-a-bridge-in-the-alps-with-a-coaching-r1186444, accessed 21 June 2024.