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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Four Sketches: including Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore, from the East; and ?Two Views of the Mountains near the Simplon Pass 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 5 Verso:
Four Sketches: including Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore, from the East; and ?Two Views of the Mountains near the Simplon Pass 1819
D14153
Turner Bequest CLXXIV 4 a
Pencil on white wove paper, 111 x 186 mm
Inscribed by the artist in pencil ‘Wood’ bottom left, parallel with left-hand side
 
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This page contains four separate and apparently unrelated sketches, all of which are very rough and schematic. Federico Crimi has identified the subject in the top left-hand corner as a view of Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore.1 The small island, seen here from the east, is dominated by the palace and gardens of the Borromeo family. For further sketches and a more detailed discussion see folio 77 verso (D14293; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 76a).
A second sketch, situated in the bottom left-hand corner of the page, parallel with the left-hand edge of the sketchbook, appears to depict a tunnel passing through the mountains. Turner has annotated the view to indicate that a wood growing on the slopes to the left. Similarly, a third sketch inverted in the bottom right-hand corner seems to represent a bridge over a mountainous ravine. The location of both of these views is unknown, although they bear many similarities to sketches on the road to the Simplon Pass in the Alps (compare for example the Gallery of Gondo, Tate D16933; Turner Bequest CXCIV 23a, and the Ponte Romano near Varzo, Tate D16930; Turner Bequest CXCIV 22). Turner made a diversionary expedition from the Italian Lakes into the Alps in order to visit this feat of engineering, recently completed by Napoleon. Although the presence of Alpine drawings at this point in the Turin, Como, Lugarno, Maggiore sketchbook does not fit in with Turner’s logical itinerary, there is some degree of overlap between this book and the Passage of the Simplon sketchbook (Tate, Turner Bequest CXCIV). The latter, for example, contains a small handful of views of the Borromean Islands on Lake Maggiore, while a view of the Bridge at Crevoladossola can be seen on folio 7 verso (D14157; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 6a). It is therefore possible that the artist used this sheet, with its view of Isola Bella, also on the road to the Simplon Pass.
The final sketch on this page is a very rough outline of a tower which represents a small part of the landscape composition continued on the opposite page of the double-page spread, see folio 6 (Tate D14154; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 5). The location of the view is perhaps the Susa Valley.

Nicola Moorby
December 2012

1
Crimi 2006, p.23 note 18 and Crimi 2009, pp.62–3.

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Four Sketches: including Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore, from the East; and ?Two Views of the Mountains near the Simplon Pass 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, December 2012, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, August 2013, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-four-sketches-including-isola-bella-on-lake-maggiore-from-r1142676, accessed 18 May 2024.