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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Source of the Arveyron below the Glacier du Bois and Mer de Glace 1802

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Source of the Arveyron below the Glacier du Bois and Mer de Glace 1802
Turner Bequest LXXV 21
Pencil, watercolour and white gouache with scratching and stopping out on white wove paper prepared with grey wash, 313 x 468 mm
Stamped in black ‘LXXV 21’ bottom right
Blind-stamped with the Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This vivid coloured drawing served as the basis of the watercolour made for Walter Fawkes and, as argued by David Hill and more recently by Eric Shanes, exhibited as Glacier and Source of the Arveron, Going up to the Mer de Glace at the Royal Academy in 1803 (National Museum of Wales, Cardiff).1 The fountain of the River Arveyron is shown in the immediate foreground, among the rocks of a cave at the base of the former Glacier du Bois emanating from the Mer de Glace. In the near middle distance are the ice-worn Rochers des Mottets and above, the peaks of the Aiguilles du Dru and Verte. As the present author noted at the time of the 1998 Tate/Martigny exhibition, Turner’s label ‘Chamoni source de Arveiron’ must have belonged to the drawing and he also listed ‘Source of the Arveron’ among subjects commissioned, in hand or ‘done’ at the front of his album of 1802 dawings (see Technical notes to the Grenoble sketchbook, Tate, Turner Bequest LXXIV). Technically and stylistically, the more finished Cardiff version is very close to the 1802 original, its emphasis on the contrasting surfaces and textures of ice and rock being, in Hill’s words, an example of the ‘theme of engagement with matter’ developed in Turner’s work after his Alpine tour.2 In the watercolour, Turner introduced a snake, ‘to provoke reflection on the pessimism of the postlapsarian curse, or on the utopianism of the natural idyll’.3
Turner made a coloured study on a larger separate sheet, concentrating on the source of the river and the glacier rather than the distant mountains and omitting the rocks in the foreground (D04887; Turner Bequest LXXIX M).
The present drawing, with another from this sketchbook (D04612; Turner Bequest LXXV 20), was used the plate The Source of the Arveron in the Valley of Chamouni Savoy for the Liber Studiorum, via the study (Tate D08161; Turner Bequest CXVIII G). Forrester suggests that this may have intended to form a pair with another Alpine subject, Mill near the Grande Chartreuse.4
Wilton 1979, p.342 no.376, as ‘Montanvert, Valley of Chamouni’; for the change of title, Hill 1980, p.62, Shanes 2000, p.692.
Hill 2000, p.273.
Forrester 1996, p.122.
Inscribed by a later hand in pencil ‘3’ within a circle

David Blayney Brown
October 2011

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘The Source of the Arveyron below the Glacier du Bois and Mer de Glace 1802 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, October 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-the-source-of-the-arveyron-below-the-glacier-du-bois-and-mer-r1146518, accessed 20 July 2024.