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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner St Maurice, for Rogers's 'Italy' c.1826-7

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
St Maurice, for Rogers’s ‘Italy’ circa 1826–7
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 147
Pencil and watercolour, approximately 165 x 215 mm on white wove paper, 235 x 295 mm
Inscribed by ?Robert Wallis in pencil ‘1’ through ‘15’ along top and bottom edges and ‘1’ through ‘12’ in ascending order along left and right-hand edges, and with faint ruled lines on all four sides of the vignette
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX–147’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This watercolour was engraved by Robert Wallis as the head-piece for the third section of Italy, entitled ‘St Maurice’.1 The bridge at St Maurice was built by the Romans, who controlled Switzerland from 58 BC until about 400 AD. Its presence in the illustration, intact and still in use, offers a clear visual link between past and present, one of the central themes of Rogers’s poem. The town of St Maurice was an established stop for many Grand Tourists en route to Rome, and Rogers devotes most of this section to a cheerful description of his stay in a local inn. However, he also includes a few verses describing the narrow stretch of the Rhone river illustrated by Turner in his vignette:
’Twas dusk; and journeying upward by the Rhone,
That there came down a torrent from the Alps,
I entered where a key unlocks a kingdom;
The mountains closing, and the road, the river
Filling the narrow pass.
(Italy, pp.9–10)
Although Turner did visit St Maurice during his 1802 trip to Switzerland, the one sketch that he made there bears no direct relation to the subject of this vignette (see Tate D04571; Turner Bequest LXXIV 78). Cecilia Powell has demonstrated that Turner made only selective use of his sketches when composing his vignettes for Italy, and it is likely that he painted this illustration from memory or imagination.2
Turner produced a preliminary study for St Maurice that is closely related to this finished vignette (see Tate D27518; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 1). Glistening light and deep perspective dominate both versions of the subject, offering a stunning example of the dramatic effects that Turner was able to achieve despite the confines of the vignette format. Like The Chapel of William Tell (Tate D27672; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 155), which occupies the opposite page in the book, St Maurice shows a body of water surrounded by steep rock formations and its composition is dominated by a strong vertical on the side nearest to the book’s binding. Adele Holcomb has pointed to the deliberate pairing of these two images as indication of the thought and care that was lavished upon the design of Rogers’s Italy.3 Further evidence that the images were conceived as a pair is the stylistic similarity between them and by the fact that both were engraved by Robert Wallis in 1827.4
Cecilia Powell has noted that faint pencil lines drawn around the vignettes were made by the engravers during the process of squaring-up the designs for reduction.5 The inscribed numbers along the edges would also have been part of this exercise.
Samuel Rogers, Italy, London 1830, p.9; W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A. vol.II, London 1913, no.350. There is one impression in Tate’s collection (T04634).
Cecilia Powell, ‘Turner’s vignettes and the making of Rogers’s “Italy” ’, Turner Studies, vol.3, no.1, Summer 1983, p.8.
Adele Holcomb, ‘J.M.W. Turner’s Illustrations to the Poets’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, University of California, Los Angeles 1966, p.57.
Luke Hermann, Turner Prints: The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 1990, p.187.
Powell 1983, p.10.
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘3’ top left and ‘3’ (encircled) middle right and ‘CCLXXX 147’ bottom centre
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 147’ lower centre

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

How to cite

Meredith Gamer, ‘St Maurice, 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-st-maurice-for-rogerss-italy-r1133294, accessed 30 May 2024.