J.M.W. Turner, Messieurs les voyageurs on their return from Italy (par la diligence) in a snow drift upon Mount Tarrar — 22nd of January 1829, a watercolour with bodycolour

AD 1829

Turner records a nightmare journey across the Alps

Turner first visited Italy in 1819 with the encouragement of Sir Thomas Lawrence, his most loyal advocate before Ruskin. He narrowly escaped disaster on his return to England across the Alps, in a journey that he depicted in a watercolour (Snowstorm, Mont Cenis, 1820, Birmingham City Museums and Art Gallery).

This watercolour records, on a grand scale, Turner's return from his third trip to Italy, begun in 1828. Leaving Italy in January, Turner's coach (a diligence in French) was caught in a snowstorm and 'zizd into a ditch', as he described it in a letter. The passengers were forced to camp in the snow until the coach could be righted.

During the trip to Italy, Turner had produced a series of oil paintings that he exhibited in his rooms in Rome. This watercolour, enriched by bodycolour, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in the year of his return. It shares much of the solidity and depth of these oils and vies with them in size: it is one of the largest watercolours he painted. The artist highlighted his own personal discomfort as a traveller by placing himself prominently in the foreground, drawing the scene with his back to the viewer and with his battered top hat outlined by the fire.

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More information


A. Wilton, Turner in his time (Thames and Hudson, 1987)

K. Sloan, J. M. W. Turner: watercolours (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)


Height: 545.000 mm
Width: 747.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1958-7-12-431


R.W. Lloyd Bequest


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