Rendered in an arresting spectrum of colour, this view of Dinant in Belgium is one of the most evocative and impressionistic of Turner’s 1839 gouaches. The light is iridescent, shifting between hues of lemon yellow, blued yellow, and rose pink.
Dinant’s arched bridge stands at centre, connecting the two banks of the Meuse. The structure appears almost spectral, rendered with watercolour wash on wetted paper. The fluid pigment used to draw the piers of the bridge has migrated slightly, bleeding and feathering, in a manner which evokes the optical phenomenon of a mirage.
The hillsides flanking the Meuse are rendered with more opaque pigment: violet, rust-brown gouache streaked with red in the foreground. The citadel, which dates from 1530 and was rebuilt in 1821 during the Dutch occupation, can be seen crowning the vertiginous cliff at the right in gloomy silhouette. The Rocher Bayard, a forty-metre monolith, is beneath it.
Turner sketched extensively at Dinant, recording its monuments from various perspectives. From the numerous pencil sketches in the Spa, Dinant, and Namur sketchbook of c.1839 (Tate D28042, D28094, D28122, D28125, D28142, D28147, D28153, D28155–D28158, D28160–D28166, D41091; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVII 1, 27a, 42a, 44a, 53, 56a, 59a, 60a–62a, 63a–66a), the artist produced six impressive gouache drawings (those belonging to Tate are: Tate D20227–D20229; Turner Bequest CCXX T, U, V).1
See also Powell 1991, pp.160–1 no.97 or Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.421 no.1026), 162 no.100, 163 no.102.
There are very faint markings in chalk at the bottom of the page which appear to be rough sketches of two small boats, inverted. The verso is also inscribed in pencil ‘CCLIX 159’ at bottom right.