View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
In this highly evocative drawing Turner depicts the Belgian city of Namur bathed in a radiant early evening light. The citadel is shown at centre: a vast military barracks and defensive fortress which crowns the rocky heights overlooking the confluence of the Meuse and Sambre Rivers. Turner applies glowing hues of lemon, amber, rust and gold gouache to the right façade of the cliff and citadel where warm sunlight falls. The left is plunged in shadow and is rendered in violet-blue and mauve. A tiny crescent moon, made vaguely substantial with the briefest of curved line, appears buoyant in a clear evening sky.
As Cecilia Powell writes, a sense of tranquillity pervades Turner’s rendering of this ‘historic spot’: a place so often ‘besieged, sacked and rebuilt... over the centuries’.1 Turner removes any impression that Namur had been a place of territorial and revolutionary warfare, instead envisioning and re-presenting the city as a halcyon community unscathed by the ravages of history. This sense of harmony is further communicated by the figures in the foreground who appear to inhabit a timeless peace. The glow of a dying sun apposing a new crescent moon is also significant, the cycle of the celestial sphere representing permanence and balance.
There is some foxing on the verso.
Inscribed in pencil ‘23b’ at top centre; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCLIX–151’ at centre towards bottom right; inscribed in pencil ‘CCLIX 151’ at bottom right. There is also a black horizontal mark of about 30 millimetres at centre towards left.
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After Joseph Mallord William Turner Namur, on the Meuse, from the Liège Road
date not known