Joseph Mallord William Turner

Burg Reschenstein, on the River Ilz near Passau


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Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 211 × 277 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXL 1

Catalogue entry

Long identified as a ‘Swiss’ or simply a ‘Mountain’ scene,1 this subject was identified by Cecilia Powell.2 On the skyline is the tower of a small castle, Burg Reschenstein, on the narrow neck of the heights within a tight meander of the River Ilz, which flows away northwards to the right here and then round another loop behind this viewpoint, south past the ruined castle at Hals to Passau, both of which are represented in this sketchbook (see the Introduction).
Powell has noted described the scene in detail:
The neck of the meander was cut through in 1827–9 by a tunnel containing both a water channel and a narrow walkway. ... Together with the adjacent boom, it enabled enormous amounts of driftwood from the Bavarian forest to make the passage down to the great shipbuilding centre of Passau ... With its delicate colouring Turner’s drawing captures all the charm and freshness of this scene, and he even indicates the entrance to the tunnel by what seems at first sight to be simply a misty gorge between two parts of the steep hillside to the right. The river itself contains a quantity of driftwood ...3
The surrounding hills remain heavily wooded. The castle is seen in the distance beyond Burg Hals in a pencil drawing from an elevated position on another page (Tate D33669; Turner Bequest CCCXL 4). Compare the low viewpoint here with that in a dramatic view of the other castle (D33667; CCCXL 2).
Eric Shanes tentatively linked the present work with a loose ‘colour beginning’ (Tate D25359; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 237).4 It apparently shows craggy hills at the side of a river or lake, bisected by the diagonal edge of a shadow between the skyline and the water, with what may be a castle with a triangular turret or spire on the skyline at the left; any general similarity in terrain is probably fortuitous, and the composition may well be considerably earlier, given its 1819 watermark.
See Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.639, Finberg 1909, II, p.1064, Gray, Croft-Murray and Butlin 1963, p.[29] and 1964, p.18.
See Powell 1995, pp.164, 244.
Ibid., p.164.
See Shanes 1997, p.97.
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘1’ centre; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCXL – 1’ towards bottom left.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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