‘Recollection Val di Scrivia’: Elizabeth Fanshawe in Busalla, c. 1830

Amateur topographical artist Elizabeth Fanshawe (1779-1856) travelled through the Genoese Apennines and the Scrivia Valley between 1829 and 1831. With her two sisters, Penelope and Catherine Maria, Elizabeth Fanshawe undertook a long journey in Europe across France, Switzerland and Northern Italy. They set off from Calais in August 1828 on the way to Nice, where they spent the following winter before moving to Genoa along the Western Riviera in May 1829. From Genoa the sisters crossed the Ligurian Apennines along the Scrivia Valley in June 1829 and reached Switzerland in July. In autumn 1829 they returned to Genoa, probably through the Bocchetta Pass and they moved to Tuscany on the Aurelia road along the Eastern Riviera. After a winter spent in Tuscany they started their journey back to Britain through Liguria (May 1830), Switzerland, and France, and eventually returned to England in 1831. We have reconstructed the trip of 1828-1831 from a list of dated drawings produced by Elizabeth Fanshawe, of which 32 depict Ligurian landscapes. Elizabeth Fanshawe made at least nine topographical drawings of the Polcevera, Lemme and Scrivia Valleys, of which seven were made on 3 June 1829, as she travelled north out of Genoa on the way to Novi Ligure. Some of these views are titled, and their location was identified through field work; they depict various places of the Scrivia Valley including Borgo Fornari, Giro del Romano, Creverina, Isola del Cantone and Romanella.

One drawing of the Val di Scrivia series is rather different from the others in terms of style and title. It is a pen and pencil drawing titled ‘Recollection Val di Scrivia’; the viewpoint has been located on the current bridge on the Busalletta River in Busalla, built in the nineteenth century with the construction of the new Strada Regia dei Giovi. The drawing has no date and the medium is different from the other wash drawings of the Scrivia series. The title ‘Recollection Val di Scrivia’ suggests that the view was perhaps produced later during the journey or once back to Britain. In the foreground of this drawing is the picturesque one-arcade humpback bridge on the River Busalletta at Busalla. On the top of the bridge Elizabeth Fanshawe depicts a little aedicule, established to ‘protect’ the bridges and to give spiritual support to the travellers. The church on the right foreground (no longer visible from Fanshawe’s point of view) is the sixteenth-century parish church of San Giorgio, which was enlarged in 1828-29, just before Elizabeth Fanshawe visited Busalla. Located on the opposite side of the Scrivia, the parish church of the hamlet of Sarissola, standing on a hill in background, is also dedicated to San Giorgio. Today the bell tower of Sarissola is barely visible from Fanshawe’s point of view as it is hidden between trees, factories and new houses. In the background a group of steep and rocky conglomeratic mountains surround the village of Sarissola. These are only sketched by Fanshawe, but they can be identified as the Biurca, Carrega do Diao and Reopasso mountains (956 m), above Crocefieschi. It is possible that by using the term ‘Recollection’ Fanshawe indicated a romantic feeling with this landscape, as if this particular combination of churches, bridge, brook, trees and mountains recalled the essence of the Scrivia Valley.


UntitledElizabeth Fanshawe, ‘Recollection Val di Scrivia’ / ‘5’ (3rd June 1829/ October 1829/ May 1830), private collection.

Viewpoint today

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