Although this watercolour is not included in Andrew Wilton's catalogue, it is one of a group discussed by him in J.Russell and A.Wilton, Turner in Switzerland, Zurich, 1976, pp. 26-7, and A.Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg and London, 1979, pp. 471-4. Marked by a relatively rich application of watercolour and a rather dark tonality, these works seem to have been executed by Turner on his visit to Switzerland in 1836 when he was accompanied by his patron H.A.J. Munro of Novar; they visited Geneva, Lausanne, Bonneville, Chamonix, Courmayeur, Aosta, Turin, the Col Mt. Cenis and Chambéry (for a map of this tour, see Wilton, 1976, pp. 34-5). Watercolours particularly close to the present drawing are referred to by Wilton, 1979, nos. 1431, 1433-4, and 1436. The use of watercolour on the spot is exceptional in Turner's work and was remarked upon by Munro: 'I don't remember colour coming out till we got to Switzerland' (A.J. Finberg, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London, 1939, 2nd edn., 1961, p. 360, and Wilton 1972, p. 26).
These watercolours, and particularly the present one, formed the basis of Turner's oil painting, Snow-Storm, Avalanche and Inundation - a Scene in the Upper Part of Val d'Aouste, Piedmont, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1837, acquired, apparently sometime later, by Munro and now in the Art Institute of Chicago (see M. Butlin and E. Joll. The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, New Haven and London, 1977, 2nd edn. 1984, pp. 222-3 no. 371, illustrated in colour). When the picture was sold in the Munro sale at Christie's London on 6 April 1878, lot 102, the catalogue stated: 'When the sketch was made for this picture Mr Munro was with Turner, who expressed a hope to him that he (Munro) did not know what he proposed to paint, for if so, he should feel himself obliged to abandon the subject.'