Although Turner did not actually visit the Belgian city of Antwerp in 1839, there is little doubt that this gouache does indeed belong to the second Meuse-Moselle tour. The work shares a common colour scheme and style of handling with other of Turner’s 1839 Belgian gouaches, such as those of Louvain, Brussels, Franchimont and Spa (see Tate D20263, D24590, D24610, D24753, D24784, D29017; Turner Bequest CCXXII D, CCLIX 25, CCLIX 45, CCLIX 189, CCLIX 219, CCXCII 66). The fact that this drawing of Antwerp appears within the works of this tour, despite Turner not having physically visited the city, indicates that the 1839 gouaches as a whole were executed in the artist’s studio well after the tour was completed. They were produced on the ‘basis of both memories and sketches’ in the winter months of that year, Cecilia Powell writes, rather than in the course of the summer tour.1
Here Turner depicts Antwerp’s Cathedral of Our Lady, which dates back to 1124.2 The left side of the cathedral, including the vertiginous north tower and onion-shaped lantern, is rendered in white gouache over a slight pen and ink sketch, the pigment lightly applied to allow the texture and blue colour of the paper to be discerned. In the foreground, a horse-drawn carriage and figures have been roughly sketched in black ink on wetted paper. The ink has run and smudged, pooling in some areas into charcoal grey blots, while dazzling lime-yellow gouache emboldens a parade of trees near to the cathedral.
Inscribed in pencil ‘CCLIX 24’ and ‘24–34’ at bottom right and top left respectively.