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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Turin, Como, Lugarno, Maggiore sketchbook 1819

Turner Bequest CLXXIV
Sketchbook with paper covered boards bound with a red leather spine and one brass clasp
93 leaves of white wove writing paper, approximate page size 111 x 186 mm
Made by Thomas Smith and Henry Allnutt of Ivy Mill, Maidstone, Kent; various pages watermarked ‘SMITH & [...] | 18[...]’
Inscribed by the artist in black ink ‘Turin | Como Lugarno Maggiore’ (very faint) on front cover, centre (D40877)
Stamped in black ‘CLXXIV’ top right of front cover and top centre of back cover
Inside front cover inscribed by Henry Scott Trimmer in black ink ‘No 284 [as part of the Turner Schedule in 1854] contains 90 leaves. Pencil | sketches on both sides | H.S. Trimmer | C. Turner’ and initialed in pencil by Charles Lock Eastlake ‘C.L.E.’ and John Prescott Knight, ‘JPK’ top right (see D40888)
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner used this sketchbook during his first tour of Italy in 1819, one of twenty-three related to that trip. The book is titled, ‘Turin, Como, Lugarno [sic],1 Maggiore’ after the artist’s own label and the respective place names reflect the route taken by the artist after entering Italy via the Mont-Cenis Pass. The contents include sketches of Turin, the Italian Lakes including the Borromean islands, and views from the road to the Simplon Pass in the Swiss Alps.
Despite advice from James Hakewill (1778–1843), who instructed the artist not to bother visiting Turin (see Route to Rome sketchbook, Tate D13933; Turner Bequest CLXXI ), Turner did choose to incorporate the city within his tour, and the large number of related sketches reflect his excitement at reaching his first major Italian location, see folios 23 verso–40 (D14189–D14221; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 22a– 39). In particular he seems to have been interested in Turin’s architecture (largely Baroque), and the urban topography as seen from the banks of the river, an approach which he would repeat in other cities, particularly Florence and Rome. The next city on his itinerary was Milan but here he made no immediate sketches, preferring instead to travel onwards to Como where he embarked upon a circular excursion of the ‘Tre Laghi’, Lakes Como, Lugano and Maggiore.2 He explored the various lakes by boat, with the chief highlights being the Duomo at Como, see folio 63 verso (D14265; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 62a), a view of Bellagio on Lake Como, folio 68 verso (D14275; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 67a), which eventually led to two watercolour studies (see the Como and Venice sketchbook, Tate D15251–2; Turner Bequest CLXXXI 1–2), and the Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore, see folio 77 verso (D14293; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 76a).3
Turner’s tour of the lakes was followed by an unusual diversionary expedition into the Swiss Alps to see the newly built Simplon Pass, the details of which can be established from a sequence of topographical sketches which lead directly from the end of the Turin, Como, Lugarno, Maggiore sketchbook to the beginning of the Passage of the Simplon sketchbook (Tate, Turner Bequest CXCIV). After Baveno on Lake Maggiore Turner joined the Simplon road and headed northwards, following the course of the River Toce to Vogogna and Domodossola before turning west into the Val Divedro at Crevoladossola. Between Iselle and Gondo he crossed the border from Italy into Switzerland and followed the route towards the Simplon Pass through the Gondoschlucht (Gondo Ravine) and the village of Simplon-dorf, a road only recently constructed by Napoleon between 1800 and 1805. According to Mariana Starke, who journeyed through the Simplon Pass twice in May 1817 and June 1819, the ascent from Domodossola to the village of Simplon-dorf could be accomplished in seven hours, while the descent took five and a half hours.4 Having reached his intended destination, Turner retraced his steps, although the return leg of the journey is largely documented within the Passage of the Simplon sketchbook (see the introduction of this sketchbook for further details). He did however, use the Turin, Como, Lugarno, Maggiore sketchbook for some final views along the western shores of Lake Maggiore, particularly of Arona and Angera, see folio 92 verso (D14323; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 91a), before eventually journeying onwards to Milan and Venice (see the Milan to Venice sketchbook, Tate; Turner Bequest CLXXV).
A tentative chronology for the sketchbook has been proposed by Federico Crimi, who suggests that Turner devoted eleven days to this part of the 1819 tour (between Susa, the first town across the Italian border from France, and Milan, following the Simplon expedition).5 Based upon Turner’s known departure date from London on 31 July, and assuming that he arrived in Venice on 1 or 2 September,6 Crimi advocates that the artist spent his first night on Italian soil on 16 August, spent three days in Turin, arrived in Como on 20 August and Baveno five days later, before tackling the route to the Simplon pass in two days, and arriving back in Milan on 27 August.7
Turner frequently adopted a phonetic spelling for Italian words, although on occasions he did also use the correct spelling for ‘Lugano’.
For sketches of Milan see the Milan to Venice sketchbook (Tate, Turner Bequest CLXXV) and the Como and Venice sketchbook (Tate, Turner Bequest CLXXXI).
For a detailed account of Turner’s exploration of the Italian Lakes see Crimi 2007 and Crimi 2009.
Mariana Starke, Travels on the Continent written for the Use and Particular Information of Travellers, London 1820, p.82.
See map and itinerary in Crimi 2009, pp.[40–1], Tavola C.
See Hamilton, Moorby, Baker et al. 2009, p.150 note 9 [‘Turner’s Route to Rome’] for a discussion of possible dates of Turner’s arrival and departure from Venice.
Crimi 2009, pp.[40–1], Tavola C.

Nicola Moorby
February 2013

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How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Turin, Como, Lugarno, Maggiore sketchbook 1819’, sketchbook, February 2013, 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/turin-como-lugarno-maggiore-sketchbook-r1142664, accessed 25 June 2024.