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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Avenches: the Roman Column,'Le Cicognier' 1802

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Avenches: the Roman Column,‘Le Cicognier’ 1802
Turner Bequest LXXIV 95
Pencil, black chalk and white gouache on greyish-buff laid paper, 210 x 284 mm
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘Avanches’ towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘LXXIV 95’ bottom right
Blind-stamped with the Turner Bequest stamp bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner’s label for this drawing is inscribed ‘Avranches’. The drawing was exhibited as number 17 in the Second Loan Collection.1
Turner visited Avenches en route from Lausanne to Berne in 1802. David Hill has noted that ‘in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries [it] was a major highlight of any Swiss itinerary’.2
The town was formerly Aventicum, the capital of Roman Helvetia, and Turner’s main subject is the Corinthian column, a survivor from a temple of Apollo, known as ‘Le Cicognier’ on account of its long service as a nesting-place for storks. The Roman city, mostly ruined or overgrown, lies outside the modern town towards which Turner is looking here, past the column and over the Roman amphitheatre. The view is roughly southwards. Turner left the town from this side and continued the few miles to the lake and town of Murten (Morat) which he also drew in this sketchbook (D40197).
The Roman column was celebrated by Byron in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto III, lxv:
By a lone wall a lonelier column rears
A gray and grief-work aspect of old days;
‘Tis the last remnant of the wreck of years
And looks as with the wild-bewilder’d gaze
Of one to stone converted by amaze,
Yet still with consciousness; and there it stands
Making a marvel that it not decays,
When the coeval pride of human hands,
Levell’d Adventicum, hath strew’d her subject lands
The paper is discoloured from exposure.
For the full tour of the Second Loan Collection see Warrell 1991, p.43.
Hill 1992, p.97.
Blank, inscribed perhaps by a later hand in pencil ‘17’

David Blayney Brown
September 2011

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘Avenches: the Roman Column,‘Le Cicognier’ 1802 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, September 2011, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, August 2014, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-avenches-the-roman-columnle-cicognier-r1146453, accessed 17 October 2019.