Joseph Mallord William Turner

Mayen in the Eifel


View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 141 x 188 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXI U

Display caption

Turner passed Mayen while travelling by road between the Rhine and the Mosel. His gouache study is dominated by the vast black hulk of the Genovevaburg, a fortified castle built between 1280 and 1311. In the foreground it shows the medieval town walls, with the Brückentor at lower right, above which can be seen St Clement's church with its twisted spire. Late nineteenth-century photographs show Mayen very much as Turner did, but the visitor there today finds it sadly altered: most of the town was destroyed in the Second World War and it has subsequently been reconstructed and expanded almost beyond recognition.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Here Turner shows the town of Mayen, situated to the west of Koblenz. The silhouette of the Genovevaburg, painted here in rather glaring black wash, dominates the view at centre. Formidable in its scale and proportions, the fortified castle was constructed for the Archbishops of Trier between 1280 and 1311.1
A section of Mayen’s medieval wall, including the Brückentor, is visible in the foreground at bottom right. Drawn in hairline strokes of brown gouache over translucent teal and yellow wash, the fortified walls appear almost spectral, described in faint and fading line. St Clement’s Church, celebrated for its twisted spire, is visible at far right and highlighted with the briefest smudge of white gouache.
Neither the Moselle nor the Rhine flows through Mayen. Rather, it is situated inland, within the Eifel plateau and between the two rivers. This irregularly undulating volcanic mountain plateau is depicted cradling the town in Turner’s picture, coloured in soft peach and maize yellow gouache. The sky is rendered in two strata of colour: the uppermost ‘layer’ is a band of chalky rose-pink gouache, flecked with pale yellow to represent wisps of cirrus clouds. Below, is a band of translucent mauve and pink watercolour, applied wet on wet, the colours merging and pooling onto the blue paper.
Turner recorded Mayen in a series of rough drawings in the fourth sketchbook of the 1839 tour (Tate D28434–D28436; Turner Bequest CCXC 42a–43a). It is from these jottings that the present gouache was created.
Powell 1991, p.150 no.83.
Inscribed in red ink, possibly by Ruskin, ‘[...]’ at bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘CCXXI U’ bottom right and ‘21b’ centre towards left; inscribed in chalk ‘?20’ at centre.

Alice Rylance-Watson
September 2013

Read full Catalogue entry

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