From the shoreline of Lake Geneva, this fine view looks towards the town of Villeneuve at the eastern end of the Lake. On the far left is the Ille de Peilz and the Chateau de Chillon lies at the foot of the majestic Mount Souchard. This exceptional painting is one of only three known Swiss views painted by Francis Danby during his brief stay in Switzerland between 1831 and 1836.
A letter Danby wrote in 1832, the year after his arrival in Switzerland, reveals that he was greatly affected by the country's beauty which he contrasts with the wilder landscape of Norway, 'Switzerland (at least what I have seen) is not so wild, but extremely beautiful, calm fine weather suits it best' (F. Danby to G.F. Robson, 23 March 1832, from Rapperswill: letter in the Henry Bicknell album Yale Center for British Art, New Haven). This 'calm fine weather' is integral to the composition of the present picture, subtly enhancing the beauty and grandeur of the lake and surrounding mountains. In view of Danby's admiration for the beauty of the country, it is perhaps surprising that so few other views of Switzerland by Danby of this period have been traced. In a letter to John Gibbons in 1834, Danby admitted that he had so far painted only Norwegian scenes or poetical landscapes and promised to tour the mountains the following year. This he may have done as both the present picture and the other identified views, 'Mont Blanc' (Aubrey J. Tarr Collection, Exmouth, Devon) and 'The End of Lake Geneva' (Paul Mellon Collection, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven) may be dated to circa 1835 . The Yale picture is similar to the present picture but is taken from a different viewpoint with the sun higher, the shadows shorter and the colours cooler.
Danby left London in 1829, embittered by his defeat in the Royal Academy election in 1828 and the unfolding scandal surrounding the collapse of his marriage. He arrived in Switzerland in 1831 and took lodgings by Lake Zurich in Rapperswill with his mistress and children. Growing debts forced him to move the following year to Geneva where he was fortunate enough to be befriended by the artist Madame Munier whose husband was the Director of the Academy of Arts. Madame Munier succeeded in raising a subscription for the large painting, The Baptism of Christ (Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva) and he soon began to receive commissions from the English community in Geneva. Despite this success, he continued to struggle financially to support his family, in part this was a result of spending the greater part of 1834 building a sailing boat on the lake. He left Geneva for Paris in 1836.