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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Lake of Como, II (A Farewell), for Rogers's 'Italy' c.1826-7

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Lake of Como, II (A Farewell), for Rogers’s ‘Italy’ circa 1826–7
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 150
Watercolour, pencil and pen and ink, approximately 127 x 198 mm on white wove paper, 245 x 305 mm
Inscribed by ?Robert Wallis in pencil with numbers <...> and ruled lines along bottom
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 150’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This vignette, engraved by Robert Wallis, appears as the head-piece for the final chapter of Rogers’s Italy, entitled ‘A Farewell’.1 Rogers indicates in a note that this poem was written on 1 May 1822 in Susa, a Piedmontese city located just below the Great St Bernard Pass. The verses deliver a heartfelt adieu to Italy:
And now farewell to Italy – perhaps
For ever! Yet, methinks, I could not go,
I could not leave it, were it mine to say,
‘Farewell for ever!’
But now a long farewell! Oft, while I live,
If once again in England, once again
In my own chimney-nook, as Night steals on,
With half-shut eyes reclining, oft, methinks,
While the wind blusters and the pelting rain
Clatters without, shall I recall to mind
The scenes, occurrences, I met with here
And wander in Elysium...
(Italy, pp.233–5)
Turner himself seems to have remembered Rogers’s verses when, upon his departure from Rome in 1828, he began a manuscript poem beginning with the words, ‘Farewell a second time to the Land of all bliss’. Cecilia Powell however, has suggested that this may also refer to another poem, ‘Farewell to Italy’ in William Sotheby’s Italy and Other Poems of 1828.2
Although the vignette is now commonly known as The Farewell after the title of the section it illustrates, it was originally published in the portfolio and quarto editions as Lake of Como II.3 Even though the topographical location is clearly indicated there has nonetheless been some confusion over the subject. Finberg, following Ruskin, described it as Isola Bella, Lago Maggiore.4 While this identification is incorrect, it is not without reason. As Jan Piggott has noted, The Farewell bears a clear resemblance to Isola Bella. On the Lago Maggiore, circa 1817 (untraced),5 a watercolour that Turner produced for Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy based upon Hakewill’s own camera obscura drawing dated June 1817.6 The villa itself, as well as the mountainous background surrounding the lake, appears to be closely related to this earlier drawing.
It is possible that the two views of Lake Como in Rogers’s Italy are meant to show the same scene from different vantage points: Jan Piggott has suggested that the villa on the left side of Lake of Como (see Tate D27674; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 157) is the same as the one we look out from here in Lake of Como II.7 However, the view is probably an invented one, drawn from Turner’s memory rather than from the many on-site drawings that he made during his visit to the Italian lakes in 1819. This interpretation is supported by the apparent circumstances of this vignette’s creation, which Rogers later described to Ruskin. According to Rogers, Turner produced this vignette one morning while they were both guests at Petworth, a visit probably sometime between October and December 1827 which Cecilia Powell has suggested is referred to by Finberg in his Life of J.M.W. Turner.8 Ruskin reproduced Rogers’s account of this episode as follows:
At breakfast I said to Turner: ‘Make me a drawing of a Terrace with steps overlooking a lake with Cypress trees.’ At luncheon he showed me that one that is engraved in the ‘Farewell to Italy’.
[Ruskin] ‘You mean a mere pencil sketch?’
[Rogers] ‘No! I think coloured’9
This passage clearly indicates that Rogers intended the design to show a generic view of the north Italian lakes. Rather than naming a specific site for Turner to represent, the poet listed the features that he wanted in the composition: a terrace, a lake and cypress trees. Even if he had requested a specific site, it is highly unlikely that Turner would have had his Italian sketchbooks available for reference whilst he was staying as a guest at Petworth.10
Lake of Como II serves as an especially fitting illustration to the final section of Rogers’s Italy, which makes few topographical references, but rather bids goodbye to Italy. The composition stands in clear contrast to the view of Como introducing the book (see Tate D27674; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 157). In Lake of Como (I), the whole lake and its distant shore are entirely accessible to the viewer. By contrast, in the Lake of Como II, the staircase and porch of the villa occupy the entire fore- and middle ground of the composition, which in turn distances the viewer from the lake and the Italian countryside beyond. Whereas the first view welcomes the viewer into Italy, in this final scene we, as the departing visitor, seem to be watching the placid water and purple mountains as they recede away.

In addition to the vignette there are two ruled pencil lines and two small marks in brown watercolour along the bottom of the sheet, possibly part of another unrelated composition.
Samuel Rogers, Italy, London 1830, p.233; W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.372. There is one impression in Tate’s collection (T04670).
Powell 1987, p.165.
Piggott 1993, p.97.
Cook and Wedderburn (eds.) 1903–12, vol.XIII, p.376 note 2. It most recently appeared under this title in Davies 1992, pp.77, 100.
Piggott 1993, p.38; Wilton 1979, no.716.
For a reproduction of Hakewill’s drawing, see Tony Cubberley, Luke Herrmann, and Valerie Scott, Twilight of the Grand Tour: a Catalogue of the Drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.2.6, p.121.
Piggott 1993, p.38.
Powell 1983, p.13 note 74; A. J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., Oxford, 1961, p.304.
Quoted from Ruskin MS.54/C at Bembridge by John Gage (ed.), Collected Correspondence of J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 1980, p.278.
Powell 1983, p.8.
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘NG’ (underlined) along top and ‘4 b’ centre right and ‘CCLXXX.150’ bottom centre. There is also some blue watercolour along the right-hand edge
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 150’ lower centre

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

How to cite

Meredith Gamer, ‘Lake of Como, II (A Farewell), for Rogers’s ‘Italy’ c.1826–7 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2006, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-lake-of-como-ii-a-farewell-for-rogerss-italy-r1133330, accessed 30 May 2024.