Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Confluence at Namur: Moonlight

c.1839

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

Medium
Gouache, pen and ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 142 x 191 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D24716
Turner Bequest CCLIX 151

Display caption

In 1838, Clarkson Stanfield published his Sketches on the Moselle, the Rhine and the Meuse. This book, with its thirty large lithographs of Belgium and Germany, made Turner long to revisit these countries. He therefore made a second tour of the Meuse and Mosel, following a route similar to that taken on his first tour in 1824, but studying the rivers and their neighbourhoods far more closely than he had done earlier. Had all these gouache scenes been engraved and published, they would have probably been a great success, but sadly this never happened.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

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.
The gouache is derived from a pencil drawing in the Spa, Dinant, and Namur sketchbook of 1839 (Tate D28119; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVII 41). Other gouaches of Namur include Tate D24711; Turner Bequest CCLIX 146 and one at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.2
1
Powell 1991, p.158 no.94.
2
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.421 no.1025.
Technical notes:
There is some foxing on the verso.
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.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2013

Read full Catalogue entry