Joseph Mallord William Turner

Burg Bischofstein

c.1839

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 138 x 190 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D29021
Turner Bequest CCXCII 70

Display caption

The tall cylindrical tower of Burg Bischofstein, which stands on a rugged ridge rising steeply from the Mosel, is one of the most arresting sights on the entire river and is visible for a considerable distance. It is also a far more forbidding castle than any other on the Mosel, being built of very dark stone. Turner's colour harmonies and handling here are both reminiscent of those used in nos.71-73.

Gallery label, August 1991

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Catalogue entry

The Castle of Bischofstein, perched atop a sheer ridge overlooking the Moselle, is an arresting sight for any tourist sailing this stretch of the river. When the travel writer Michael Joseph Quin set eyes upon it from the deck of his steamer in the early 1840s, he noticed ‘its tall cylindrical donjon tower’ marked at the top with ‘a well-defined white streak’, a feature suggested here in Turner’s picture.1 This white band, according to Quin, is ‘a particularity attributed by the people of the country to an inundation, during which the waters... ascended to the altitude of that cincture’.2
The castle cuts a rather brooding figure in this drawing, enclosed on all sides by rust, wine, and teal coloured cliffs. Dark amber and pale yellow gouache is used to lighten the foreground. Turner’s handling is gestural, creating an evocative and impressionistic vision of this ancient monument.
Turner made many pencil sketches of Burg Bischofstein, both in 1824 and 1839 (see Tate D19569, D19802, D19803, D28314, D28316, D28319, D28562–D28566; Turner Bequest CCXVI 9a, 126, 126a, CCLXXXIX 12a, 13a, 15, CCXCI 13a–15a).
1
Michael Joseph Quin, Steam voyages on the Seine, the Moselle, & the Rhine: with railroad visits to the principal cities of Belgium, London 1843, p.57.
2
Ibid.
Technical notes:
There has been some fading and discolouration of the pigment and support due to exposure to sunlight following the picture’s exhibition.
Verso:
Stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCXCII–70’ at bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘114 b’ at centre right and ‘CCXCII 70’ at bottom right.

Alice Rylance-Watson
September 2013

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