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Prue Bishop's J M W Turner Research Projects

Project 1: Locations of 1802 Chartreuse Sketches by Comparative Photography

For more in-depth reading, please refer to Prue Bishop's research paper in the Summer 2015 British Art Journal

The original Turner sketches are all part of the Turner Bequest 1856 held on behalf of the public by Tate Britain.


Turner D04515

Turner 1802: D04515 "The Post House, Voreppe with the Grand Aiguille Beyond, with Turner's Cabriolet"




Former Post House, Voreppe

Photo 2011: The above house appears to lie precisely on the site of the old Post House, but is much taller. Luckily, with the site under refurbishment we were given access. The low part of the building (behind the gateway that nowadays belongs to the next-door property) is very old and - as you may see - lower than the rest of the building. At the time of our inspection we observed the remains of a former fireplace there.

Turner D40206

Turner 1802: D40206 "title not known"








Looking back on Voreppe and the Isere Valley

Photo 2012: The identification of D40206 with the photo above commenced with a local geologist Mr Maurice Gidon who recognised the 'la Buffe' rock face, la Couche d'Ezy and the Vallon de la Voroize, beyond the floor of the Isère Valley, as seen from Voreppe.

There are 2 churches in our photo. The one on the left behind the trees has Roman foundations.  The one on the right was built in the mid-1850s which explains why it isn't in Turner's sketch - unless it's the church-like building there. If you know what this building was in Turner's day, then plase send us an e-mail.

An old route passes between the churches, and would have been a likely direct route to take out of Voreppe towards Pommiers and eventually into the valley leading to St Laurent du Pont and the Grande Chartreuse. The modern main road winds up about a kilometre to the right of this view and the old route came also quite close to that too.

The curved dark structure to the bottom-left of Turner's sketch may be of a natural cave, as these are numerous and a notable feature in this area.

Turner made several sketches of this area above Voreppe as his little group made their way upwards on horseback.


At the time of Turner's 1802 visit, with the monastery having been sacked just over a decade earlier, iron production in the Guiers Mort Valley had declined steeply.  Only the Fourvoirie furnaces and hammers remained in operation, producing high-quality iron, but the Industrial Revolution was bringing in much more efficient processes that were located elsewhere.

Turner D04521

Turner 1802: D04521 "Bridges Grande Chartreuse"








Pont des Forges, Fourvoirie, 1753

Photo 2011: Two Bridges at Fourvoirie, with a third bridge-like structure at the rear that had once been part of the flow control for the that was once to the right of the picture.  On the left, abandoned workshops. The bridge in the foreground is Pont des Forges.

The date inscribed into the stonework is 1753.


Inscription 1753



Turner D04520

Turner 1802 D04520 "Entrance to the Chartreuse with Water Mill" The Pont de la Jarjatte with a water feed under the archway to a millwheel and mill on the extreme right. Partially hidden by the bridge is the arched Porte de la Jarjatte gateway to the Monastic 'Désert'. The central feature may look like a waterfall, but is actually trees (compare with the photo on the right).


Pont de la Jarjatte, from 1275

Photo 2011: The above view is from the Pont des Forges bridge and is predominantly of the Pont de la Jarjatte bridge that has 1703 inscribed on both sides.  A roadway on the right was abandoned in 1985 when a tunnel was opened.

In Turner's sketch and partly hidden by the bridge is the Port de la Jarjatte gateway into the Grande Chartreuse Monastery area known as the 'Désert'. This was swept away in the mid-1850s road improvement programme.

Interestingly, further right than in the photo the stone pillars that once supported the wooden sawmill are still there, clearly visible from the right-of-way public footpath that passes over the Pont des Forges.



Bridge Inscription 1703

The date inscribed into the stonework is 1703.


Natural Entrance to the 'Désert' from the Porte de la Jarjatte

Porte de la Jarjatte natural entrance to the chartreuse


Turner 1802 D04526: The narrow Natural Entrance to the Monastic 'Désert from having just passed through the Porte de la Jarjatte entrance portal.


The above view is taken from just beyond where the Pont de la Jarjatte gateway used to be and highlights the narrow natural entrance that is the backdrop to Turner's D04520 sketch, and that leads into the Grande Chartreuse area, nowadays Le Parc Naturel Régional de Chartreuse. This narrow gap, with the former entrance portal and Pont de la Jarjatte bridge are known as the Porte de la Jarjatte.


Natural Rock Crossing of the Guiers Mort

Turner 1802: D04523 "A Bridge in the Grande Chartreuse" Most of you looking at the above will surely miss Turner's main subject.  It's not the bridge.  It's the huge rock right in the middle of his sketch.  It has no name, so we've long called it "St Bruno's Rock" as he would surely have used it to cross the Guiers Mort River when he and his companions came this way.

St Bruno's Rock and Pont Pérant

Photo May 2011: This is very close to Turner's location, although both St Bruno's Rock and Pont Pérant are rather obscured by vegetation.

!!Amazing News!! - Spring 2014.  We found that this famous rock had rolled almost 90 degrees - away from our above view. Fortunately it hasn't fallen into the river.  For the time being, it is easy to see both "St Bruno's Rock" and the wonderful bridge.

Even with this movement, this scene has changed so little that if you visit here you could be back in 1802 - or even earlier!

As we slowly ascend the Guiers Mort Valley in our motor-car, we eventually come to Pont St Bruno that was placed there when the revised route that we follow today was constructed in 1856. There is a small parking area for a couple of cars from where one may proceed on foot along an undisturbed section of Turner's actual route that has changed little in over 200 years.

Just after an almost ruined Petite Vache bridge is where Turner descended down the bank and drew the above sketch. He would have been right on the edge of a dangerous drop!

The bridge is called Pont Pérant: a National Monument - that does not have an agreed spelling. However, the central theme of the sketch is esily missed, even though it occupies the centre of the paper.  It is a large rock spanning the Guiers Mort River.

Turner had selected a subject of considerable significance, in that in 1084 St Bruno and 6 companions may well have taken advantage of this 'God-given' facility to cross to the other side on their way to founding the Grande Chartreuse Monastery.

As we can find no official name, we suggest calling this crossing "St Bruno's Rock" There is a second rock spanning the river on the other side of the Pont Pérant.

Beyond the bridge, the old route has been buried by the revised road. However, one may follow an anglers' path, eventually coming to a 'difficult section' where falling rock may present a serious hazard, especially after recent rain.

Pont Perant

Pont Pérant, a French National Monument

- constructed around 1500 !!


This Pic de l'Oeillette Gateway to the Monastic 'Désert' had been replaced by the Porte de la Jarjatte Gateway further west at Fourvoirie long before Turner's visit. That he shows a portal still at the Pic in 1802 and still in what appears to be good condition is therefore very interesting. We have never seen any other accurate drawing of the structure, so this sketch is of considerable historical importance as it shows all the main features of this famous entrance.

The modern road passes the Pic at about the same elevation as in Turner's day. After the Pic, it is possible to pick up the old track that runs to the left of, and higher up than, the present road that passes through tunnels. Turner's large watercolour D04882 (not shown here) is a view from this track about 1km further on, looking back over the Pic Gateway, as explained by Professor David Hill in his Turner in the Alps book. Although this track is little used and heavily wooded, it eventually levels off where you will see that mesh safety-netting is anchored there to catch rocks from falling onto today's main road.  From there you have Turner's view - although you might need a step ladder and an axe as the trees are growing so fast (2014).  You might also find a plaque commemorating the opening of this route to the Monastery in 1775 (the year of Turner's birth).  It was a magnificent engineering achievement that would have needed gunpowder to shift the rocks.  Today's engineers still blow the rocks apart here, as keeping the modern road open is a constant battle against nature. Do take great care in the Guiers Mort Valley, as rocks fall all the time.

Turner D04528

Turner 1802: D04528 The Pic de l'Oeillette gateway.  This is a historically very important sketch as it shows the layout of this gateway - still intact in 1802 even though the Jarjatte gateway had replaced its function long before. Note the 'donjon' room of last defence over the entrance gate that has a tiny 'window', and the extension to the side that may have been a second entrance.  There is also a tower on a stub of land at the bottom right of the sketch; this would have been a look-out tower.  From here, in the absence of today's trees, one would have had an excellent view of the Guiers Mort downstream approaches.

Porte de la Jarjatte - photo

Photo 2011: A view looking up the Guiers Mort, of a rock face on the opposite side of the river to the Pic de l'Oeillette monolith that is just hidden around the corner. (In Turner's sketch it is just peeping out from the left-hand rockface. In the above photo it is hidden by the trees on the left, so please see the next photo.

This rockface is usually very striking in the afternoons as the sun begins to lighten it up.  In the mornings, you would probably not notice it.  Also, this photo was taken in 2011, and in 2014 it is much more hidden behind ever-growing trees.

Pic de l'Oeillette slightly hidden - photo

We had to take this second photo to compare with the Turner sketch, as the trees on the left of the above photo obscured the Pic itself that is to the left.

The photo on the left shows the Pic de l'Oeillette slightly obscured by the rock face on the left.  It is recognisable on the left of Turner's sketch.

Oh, and note the rocks on the road. This is not a place to hang around, especially if it's wet.

If you're a cyclist, do please wear a helmet here!


Turner: Grand Logis 1802

Grand Logis 2014

Grand Logis 1802

Grand Logis 2014

The above is only a very small part of our findings to date.

Your interest and comments are welcome.

All above photos © John Lumby, and John & Prue Bishop.

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This page was last updated on May 23rd 2016

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