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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Two Sketches of the Sacra di San Michele 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 9 Recto:
Two Sketches of the Sacra di San Michele 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXIV 8
Pencil on white wove paper, 111 x 186 mm
Inscribed by John Ruskin in blue ink ‘284’ top right and ‘8’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CLXXIV 8’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
As Federico Crimi first identified, the sketches on this page depict the Sacra di San Michele, an ancient abbey situated in the Val di Susa.1 Founded during the tenth century, the abbey stands on Mount Pirchiriano, near Avigliana and, although at the time of Turner’s 1819 tour of Italy it was an abandoned ruin, it was nonetheless a distinctive landmark in this part of the Susa Valley and Turner made several drawings of it from various viewpoints. The main prospect of this page shows the view from the east with the abbey on the rocky spur just left of centre. The low-lying wisp of cloud to the right gives an indication of the vast height at which the abbey positioned. To the right of the main building can be seen the tall structure of the Torre della Bell’Alda (Tower of the Beautiful Alda), so named after a legend concerning a beautiful peasant girl who leapt from the tower to avoid maurading soldiers and miraculously survived. Turner has further embellished the page with a separate, more detailed study of the architecture of the complex, visible on the left-hand side of the page, parallel with the spine.
Further sketches of the Sacra di San Michele can be found on folios 7–8 verso and 9 verso (D14156–D14159 and D14161; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 6–7a and 8a).

Nicola Moorby
December 2012

Crimi 2007, p.23 note 16.

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Two Sketches of the Sacra di San Michele 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-two-sketches-of-the-sacra-di-san-michele-r1142683, accessed 24 May 2024.