Via Mala

Frank Sir Short,

WAG 4521

About this object

This print is after Turner's watercolour of the 'Devil's Bridge, Mt. St Gothard' of about 1806 to 1807 (Tate N03631) but John Ruskin believed Turner's work showed the Via Mala, a mountain pass some forty miles to the east, which Turner may not have visited until 1843. Ruskin may have encouraged Short to use the title 'Via Mala'.
Turner intended the 'Liber Studiorum' to consist of 100 prints but only 71 were released during his lifetime. He did continue to work on potential prints for the 'Liber' after he had finished publishing the series. A number of related unfinished drawings and plates were found in his studio after his death.

The engraver Sir Frank Short (1857-1945) copied a selection of Turner's original 'Liber' prints as a student. He later engraved plates based on Turner's unfinished designs for the 'Liber'. This print, 'Via Mala', was made by Short based on one of these designs.

The 'Liber Studiorum' illustrated Turner’s arguments for the supremacy of landscape painting. The title means ‘book of studies’ in Latin. It contained no written text, instead it was made up of individual mezzotint prints on paper. They were released in fourteen parts from around 1807 until 1819.

The prints reflected the five categories of landscape painting Turner believed existed: architectural, historical, marine, mountainous and pastoral. Turner wrote an initial on each work to indicate which category it belonged to. It is unclear which category this print was intended to belong to.

Object specifics

  • Other title(s)
    Devil's Bridge, Mount St Gothard; Via Mala
  • Artist(s)
    Sir Frank Short (British, born:1857-06-19, died:1945-04-22)
  • Date
  • Materials
    Mezzotint; Paper
  • Measurements
    image: 18.5 cm x 26.1 cm
  • Physical description
    A rocky mountainous landscape with a deep narrow gorge and a double arched bridge slightly to the left. A road with a smaller brige is built into the rocky sides of the mountain on the right on which people and mules are travelling.
  • Related people
    Sir Frank Short (Artist/maker) ; Joseph Mallord William Turner (Designed by)
  • Other number(s)
    WAG Inventory Number: 4521
  • Credit line
    Purchased by the Walker Art Gallery in 1898
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Collection
    From the Walker Art Gallery collections


Item inscriptions

  • Inscription text: Symbol
    Inscription method: Imprinted
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: On Plate
  • Inscription text: Frank Short
    Inscription method: Pencil
    Inscription note:
    Inscription location: Front; Lower right
Object view = Fine Art
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