Joseph Mallord William Turner

Cochem from the North


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 140 × 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXI E

Catalogue entry

This view of Cochem is related to two pencil drawings in the last of Turner’s five 1839 sketchbooks (Tate D28547–D28548; Turner Bequest CCXCI 6–6a). The artist shows the town from downstream, incorporating, at right, the break in the Moselle valley which signals the source of the River Endert.
Cochem is overlooked by the ruins of the Castle Reichsburg seen in this drawing atop the conical mount to the left. There is a tiny chapel visible near the base of the mount called the Pestkapelle St Rochus (the Plague Chapel of St Roch). At centre is the tower of Saint Martin’s Church rising loftily above a tight nucleus of houses and buildings. Behind the church, and on a higher ridge, is the seventeenth-century Capuchin monastery.
Cochem is pictured here, as Michael Joseph Quin, the Irish travel writer quipped, cradled by ‘piles of mountains’.1 Some peaks, he writes, are ‘tabled at the top’, with ‘some descending in waving lines until they are lost in the azure distance’.2 Quin praises Cochem as ‘a picture of natural fertility, and of human industry carried to one of the highest practicable degrees of perfection, diversified by bold escarpments of naked rocks, and by eminences covered with brambles’.3
For Quin, the Reichsburg Castle immediately suggests to the traveller the historical ‘importance formerly attached to Cocheim’ as an Imperial town once occupied by Konrad III, the first King of Germany.4 Turner renders the Reichsburg gleaming with minute flecks of pearl-white gouache, echoing pictorially Quin’s textual description of its ‘bleached battlements’, which, ‘when illumined by the sun... shine out with the lustre of burnished steel armour’.5 And the St Roch Chapel, Quin further writes, imparts an ‘air of sanctity, as the castle does of chivalry’ to the visitor’s picture of Cochem.6
The town itself, Quin notes:
has always been of some consequence... Almost every house is engaged in trade, its principal commerce being in the prime wines of its vicinity, in linens, groceries, and iron. It has all the appearance of being a busy and prosperous town, and carries considerable trade with Coblenz, Frankfort [sic] on the Maine, and several places on the banks of the Moselle.7
Michael Joseph Quin, Steam voyages on the Seine, the Moselle, & the Rhine: with railroad visits to the principal cities of Belgium, London 1843, p.48; see also ‘Historie’, Burg Cochem, accessed 21 July 2014,
Ibid, pp.48–9.
Ibid. p.49.

Alice Rylance-Watson
September 2013

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