- Museum number
Zurich; view over the rooftops of the city, in the foreground groups of figures seated on a mound, below them a line of figures entering the city through a gateway. 1842
- Production date
Height: 300 millimetres
Width: 456 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Sloan 1998
Turner's 1836 tour to the Val d'Aosta with his friend and patron Munro of Novar reawakened his interest in Switzerland, and from 1840 until 1845 he went there every year. He not only returned to favourite sites, seeking to reinterpret them, but also sought out new alpine scenes. The small group of finished watercolours from these tours, produced when Turner was at the height of his technical and creative powers, must have been the most desirable from Lloyd's point of view, but those available were finite in number and he only managed to secure two - although undoubtedly two of the finest.
Turner returned from his travels in 1841 bearing the usual results of such a tour - hastily made pencil sketches in small notebooks and 'composed' views broadly sketched in watercolour in larger soft-bound notebooks that he carried with him, rolled in his pocket. The following spring he decided to produce a group of twenty finished watercolours based on the large colour sketches, but he was unwilling to undertake such a substantial group without commissions for at least some of them. In order to attract such commissions, he thought of showing potential clients his colour sketches, but because they were not of uniform size or style, he produced another set all of the same size, carefully ensuring that he reproduced the character of "the original sketch in the primitive state".¹ In the end he only managed to produce fifteen of these 'samples' and four finished works derived from them, which he gave his dealer Griffith to try to organise buyers at 80 guineas each. Turner's earlier patron Benjamin Windus thought them too dramatic a departure from his earlier work, but Munro of Novar bought three of the finished watercolours and commissioned one more from the samples - this view of 'Zurich'.² One of the finished works purchased by Munro was 'The Pass of the Splügen' (W 1523), the one most coveted by John Ruskin, who described this group from 1842 as "the most finished and faultless works of his last period".³ In this watercolour, which has been described as "ecstatic", suggesting "perhaps, the apotheosis of city life",⁴ Turner seems to have finally realised the union he had been striving to achieve through subject matter and medium for decades - that of man, history and landscape.
1. Warrell 1995, p. 12, also Appendix II for the most thorough discussion of all the late Swiss watercolours, 1841-51.
2. Based on sample study TB CCCLXIV 291, inscribed on verso 'J.A. Munro Esqr/4' and in red chalk '10'; see Warrell 1995 (22), illus.
3. FAS 1900, p. 65.
4. Wilton 1982 (99).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1907, Agnew's, no.39
1920, Agnew's, no. 19
1934, RA, no.884(incoorectly said to have been exh. FAS 1878)
1951, Agnew's, no.116
1959, 1960, BM
1966 Feb, BM, Turner Lloyd Bequest, no.37
1969 Feb, BM, Turner Lloyd Bequest, no.37
1975, BM, Turner in the BM, no.286
1985, BM, British Landscape Watercolours 1600-1860, no.100
1990 Apr-Aug, BM, Treasures of P&D, (no cat.)
1998 May-Sept., BM, J.M.W.Turner: Lloyd Bequest, no.46
- Previous owner
Previous owner/ex-collection: Hugh Andrew Johnstone Munro of Novar (Painted for Munro; his sale, Christie's 6.iv.1878/87, bt Agnew's £1.260 (stock 4575) bt. Irvine Smith 8 April 1878)
Previous owner/ex-collection: J Irvine Smith (Sold to Agnew's 10 January 1907 (stock 6114); bt Sir George Drummond 29 January 1907)
Previous owner/ex-collection: Sir George Drummond (His sale, Christie's 27.vi.1919/129, bt Agnew's, £6.510; bt C. Morland Agnew 10 July 1919, £7,000 (stock 9317))
Previous owner/ex-collection: C Morland Agnew (sold to Agnew's 8 [sic] May 1924, £4,500 (stock 477); bt by Lloyd 5 May 1924, £5,000)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- UNDER THE TERMS OF THE BEQUEST, NONE OF THE PRINTS OR DRAWINGS BEQUEATHED BY R. W. LLOYD MAY BE LENT OUTSIDE THE BRITISH MUSEUM (Registration Numbers 1958,0712.318 to 3149).
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number