Here Turner depicts the grandiose architecture of the Rheinfels fortification which overlooks the Rhine valley at St. Gore. Though in a state of ruin, Turner’s suggestion of its ancient curtain and parapet walls, ramparts, towers, guardhouses, and bastions evoke Rheinfels’ historical function as a defensive stronghold of the noble family to whom it once belonged.
Rheinfels is depicted elsewhere in this sketchbook on Tate D28455–D28457, D28506, D28507, D28510; Turner Bequest CCXC 53–54, 78a, 79a, 79d. Turner recorded the castle extensively in the Rhine sketchbook of 1817 (Tate D12918–D12923, D12930–D12932, D12935–D12937, D12952–D19260; Turner Bequest CLXI 21a–24, 26–27a, 29–30, 37a–42). See also the 1841 colour sketch (private collection).1
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.459 no.1327.