As Eric Shanes first recognised,1 this study of barges and smaller boats apparently relates to the early 1820s watercolour Kaub and the Castle of Gutenfels (private collection).2 There are two full-scale colour studies (D25511 D25512; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 387, 388) under which the subject is discussed in more detail; they leave the waters of the River Rhine empty of river traffic and their focus is on the lighting of the rugged background at two different times of day.
A similar array of working craft, albeit in different juxtapositions, dominates the foreground of the finished design, which is considerably larger at 305 x 417 mm. The boats in the present work are on a similar scale and occupy a correspondingly larger proportion of this sheet. The background is a loose approximation of the setting off the town of Kaub, as Turner experiments further with effects of light and atmosphere.
Shanes 1997, pp.29, 97.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.465 no.1378, as c.1840; Cecilia Powell, Turner’s Rivers of Europe: The Rhine, Meuse and Mosel, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1991, p.109 no.20, as c.1820, reproduced; Cecilia Powell, Turner in Germany, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1995, p.29, as c.1824, fig.15; Eric Shanes in Shanes, Evelyn Joll, Ian Warrell and others, Turner: The Great Watercolours, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London 2000, p.123 no..42, as c.1824.
The white architectural form towards the top left has been rubbed away through the washes, and strokes of white gouache have supply highlights on and around the boats.
Blank; laid down.