Joseph Mallord William Turner

Alken and Burg Thurandt from the South


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 139 × 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXCII 72

Display caption

In both nos. 75 and 76 Turner has depicted Alken with a fair degree of artistic licence, but there can be no mistaking the twin towers of Burg Thurandt in no.75 or the thirteenth-century church of St Michael in no.76. In both scenes he has introduced the large rocks which abound on this stretch of the Mosel, while in the left-hand part of no.76 he has also provided a graphic illustration of the steep hillside next to the town up which he himself had toiled in order to achieve good viewpoints.

Gallery label, August 1991

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Catalogue entry

‘This work has eluded identification in the past’, writes Cecilia Powell, largely owing to ‘the indistinctness of its topography, barely visible through the layers of impasto’.1 In her 1991 catalogue, however, Powell proposes that the view in fact shows the Burg Thurandt and also the town of Alken, on the Moselle in Germany. The Burg Thurandt was the feudal stronghold of Henrich, the brother of King Otto IV. It was constructed in 1197 upon his return from the Crusades.2
Turner colours the mountains and castle with broad and thick applications of pale apricot, yellow and lavender gouache. Architectural features such as the gate tower at Alken and the ancient town walls are partially delineated in orange line. The foreground is largely left unpainted, with the exception of the large and craggy boulders rendered in translucent brown wash. Cursory strokes of pen and sepia ink mark the striations and textures of the rocks.
Turner is thought to have drawn upon two preliminary pencil sketches to produce this gouache: Tate D28572–D28572; Turner Bequest CCXCI 18–18a. For another 1839 gouache of Alken and the Burg Thurandt, see Tate D20223; Turner Bequest CCXX P.
Powell 1991, p.147 no.75.
‘Geschichte’, Burg Thurant, accessed 17 September 2013,
Inscribed in red ink, possibly by Ruskin, with numerals at bottom left; these have been partly obscured following mounting. Stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCXCII–72’ at bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘117 b’ lower centre towards right; inscribed in chalk ‘x 3’ towards top centre.

Alice Rylance-Watson
September 2013

Read full Catalogue entry


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