Technique and condition
This painting is executed in pencil, watercolour and gouache on a blue/grey coloured, wove paper. No watermark is visible. On the recto the pencil outline has been filled in with thin washes of watercolour. Highlights were then added in white and yellow gouache. On the verso a quick pencil sketch has been drawn and then white gouache highlights have been added to indicate the buildings and the foreground. There is some flaking of the white gouache on the recto in areas of heavy application.
There is a patch of black smudging at the top of the centre of the image. A brownish stain is visible in the bottom left-hand quarter of the verso and a small brown stain in the bottom right-hand quarter of the recto, to the left of the Turner Bequest stamp.
Prior to conservation there was some cockling, especially along the top edge of the sheet where it was attached to an inlay paper. All four corner of the verso are skinned and it is evident that they have previously been attached to another backing.
As has long been recognised,1 Castel Roncolo (Schloss Runkelstein) is shown picked out in white on its crag above the valley of the fast-flowing Torrente Talvera (Talferbach), in the southern Sarntal Alps. It has since been restored and is open to the public; not being as remote as the dramatic setting might suggest, it stands only about two miles north of Bolzano (Bozen), the capital of Alto Adige province (otherwise Südtirol or South Tyrol), on the fringes of the Dolomites in northern Italy. Indeed, the 1840 edition of John Murray’s guidebook recommended it as ‘very picturesque’, and noted its ‘very curious fresco paintings, probably of the 14th or 15th century’ of scenes from German myth and Arthurian romance,2 perhaps then too unfashionable to pique Turner’s less Gothic interest.
The view is to the south-west, with the square riverside tower of Castel Novale (Schloss Ried) almost eclipsing the fortress; it now lacks the shallow roof shown here. Two contemporary colour studies show other castles downstream towards the city (Tate D36154–D36155; Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 297, 298).
In his 1974 discussion of 1840 Venice subjects on grey paper, Andrew Wilton compared them to ‘views on the Rhine and at Botzen, on paper of the same type and size, [Tate D36149–D36158] Turner Bequest CCCLXIV–292 to 301)’;3 see also the technical notes below As well as D36152 (Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 295, a view over central Bolzano), and others now assigned to the return leg of this tour, that sequence also includes the three Torrente Talvera views (D36154, D36155 and this one; CCCLXIV 297–299). Each has a pencil sketch on the verso, respectively D40188, D40177 and D40178, the first and third around Bolzano, and D40177 of Bregenz, Austria, from the earlier stages of this route. In his survey of Turner’s colour studies of Bregenz, Edward Yardley linked the four Bolzano sheets, dating them to 1840 by association;4 a year later, Hardy George was still tentatively considering them in relation to Turner’s 1833 tour to Venice.5 Another similar sheet, Tate D32189 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 10), is a less finished variant of D36152, under which Turner’s visit is discussed further.