This richly coloured drawing depicts the border town of Mézières, France from a south-easterly perspective. The time of day is sunset. Mézières is bathed in a glowing burnt orange, rose and apricot light. Turner’s vantage point looks directly toward the Pont de Pierre and the Meuse with the steeple of the Basilica of Notre-Dame d’Espérance at right.
Certain of the drawing’s compositional and colouristic features recall a number of Turner’s works produced in the style of the seventeenth-century grand-manner landscapist Claude Lorrain (?1604/5–1682), notably Claude’s port or embarkation scenes.1 One thinks particularly of the radiant sundown light in this drawing, the centralised and illuminated focal point of the bridge and shimmering river, and the prominence of the steeple of Notre Dame which appears so classicised here that it almost resembles the ruins of a classical temple’s pediment.
In all, it is the vivid colouring employed by Turner which makes this drawing so arresting: the brilliant red of the costumed figures in the foreground, the flashes of gold representing reflected sunlight, stippled moss green for the river islets, and blush-pink daubs of sunset cloud.
Its composition derives from a rough pencil sketch in the Givet, Mézières, Verdun, Metz, Luxemburg and Trèves sketchbook of 1839 (Tate D28191; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVIII 13). The detailed rendering of the church tower, which is seen rising loftily at the right, is based on numerous sketches from the same book (Tate D28191, D28193, D28195, D28196, D28199, D28201, D28201; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVIII 13, 14, 15, 15a, 17, 18, 19a).
For examples and more information on Turner’s painting in the style of Claude see Ian Warrell (ed.), Turner Inspired in the Light of Claude, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery, London 2012.
There is some foxing at the bottom right corner of the verso.
Stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCLIX–166’ at centre towards right; inscribed in pencil ‘24b’at centre right; inscribed ‘CCLIX 166’ towards bottom right.