Joseph Mallord William Turner

Beilstein and Burg Metternich


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 140 × 192 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXI F

Display caption

Beilstein is situated on one of the many bends of the Mosel, so that river travellers enjoy numerous changing views of the town nestling in its ravine and the gaunt ruins perched high above it. Turner has captured this scene in brilliant colours, emphasising with his tiny brush strokes the degree to which bare rock alternates with vines and bushes, as each slope catches the sunlight in a slightly different way.

Gallery label, August 1991

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Catalogue entry

This finely wrought and evocative drawing depicts Beilstein, a town situated on a bend of the Moselle near Cochem. Turner shows St Joseph’s Parish Church and Carmelite monastery at centre, coloured with the same milky-pink gouache as the Burg Metternich atop the pinnacle to the right. The ruins of this thirteenth-century castle, once the estate of powerful feudal lords, constituted, for the novelist and traveller Michael Joseph Quin, ‘one of the most picturesque memorials of chivalry to be seen on the Moselle’.1
The sand bank in the foreground is peopled by locals on horseback, herding what seem to be small groups of cattle. Beyond, a barge with its sail erect glides along the crystalline waters towards the bend in the valley. Turner has used the finest of hairline brushstrokes to render these details, lending the foreground a contrastive sharpness to the softly streaked mountains surrounding the town. These grand rocky ranges are described by Quin as ‘constantly varying in shape and height, some naked, some densely wooded, with vines interspersed’. 2 The vines can be seen at the right creeping up the mountainside. The slanted striations and craggy texture of the rocks is suggested with fine strokes of blue, pink, and yellow pigment.
Turner based this work on a series of drawings in the Trèves to Cochem and Coblenz to Mayence sketchbook (Tate D28367–D28369; Turner Bequest CCXC 9–10). As Cecilia Powell points out, Clarkson Stanfield produced a very similar view to this in his Sketches on the Moselle of 1838. It is likely, then, that Turner ‘sought out his viewpoint deliberately’, given its already established popularity.3
Michael Joseph Quin, Steam voyages on the Seine, the Moselle, & the Rhine: with railroad visits to the principal cities of Belgium, London 1843, p.36. See also ‘Geschichte’, Burg Metternich,, accessed 17 September 2013.
Quin 1843, p.35.
Powell 1991, p.139–40 no.62.
Stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCXXI F’ bottom centre; inscribed in pencil 14?b’ and ‘70a’ centre towards right.

Alice Rylance-Watson
September 2013

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