Joseph Mallord William Turner

Antwerp Cathedral from the Place Verte


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache, pen and ink and watercolour on paper
Support: 139 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLIX 24

Display caption

Turner's gouache studies of Brussels, Louvain, Franchimont and Spa (nos.106-119) were all inspired by sights he had enjoyed early in his 1839 tour, before he reached the Meuse itself. He did not revisit Antwerp in 1839 but this work is similar to those showing Brussels and Louvain, indicating that the drawings were executed in Turner's studio, using both memories and sketches, rather than in the course of a tour. A striking feature of this scene is the bright green tree in the centre. It is very likely that this is a deliberate pun on the name of the square depicted - comparable to that on the 'Orange-Merchant' in no.13.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Although Turner did not actually visit the Belgian city of Antwerp in 1839, there is little doubt that this gouache does indeed belong to the second Meuse-Moselle tour. The work shares a common colour scheme and style of handling with other of Turner’s 1839 Belgian gouaches, such as those of Louvain, Brussels, Franchimont and Spa (see Tate D20263, D24590, D24610, D24753, D24784, D29017; Turner Bequest CCXXII D, CCLIX 25, CCLIX 45, CCLIX 189, CCLIX 219, CCXCII 66). The fact that this drawing of Antwerp appears within the works of this tour, despite Turner not having physically visited the city, indicates that the 1839 gouaches as a whole were executed in the artist’s studio well after the tour was completed. They were produced on the ‘basis of both memories and sketches’ in the winter months of that year, Cecilia Powell writes, rather than in the course of the summer tour.1
Here Turner depicts Antwerp’s Cathedral of Our Lady, which dates back to 1124.2 The left side of the cathedral, including the vertiginous north tower and onion-shaped lantern, is rendered in white gouache over a slight pen and ink sketch, the pigment lightly applied to allow the texture and blue colour of the paper to be discerned. In the foreground, a horse-drawn carriage and figures have been roughly sketched in black ink on wetted paper. The ink has run and smudged, pooling in some areas into charcoal grey blots, while dazzling lime-yellow gouache emboldens a parade of trees near to the cathedral.
Turner sketched the Cathedral at Antwerp on a number of occasions during a tour in 1817: see the Waterloo and Rhine sketchbook (Tate D12732; Turner Bequest CLX 17), the Dort (Tate D12999–D13008; Turner Bequest CLXII 2a–7) and the Holland sketchbooks (Tate D19226; Turner Bequest CCXIV 195).
Powell 1991, p.165 no.105.
‘History’, Antwerp Cathedral, accessed 11 August 2014,
Inscribed in pencil ‘CCLIX 24’ and ‘24–34’ at bottom right and top left respectively.

Alice Rylance-Watson
September 2013

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