Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ehrenbreitstein and the Bridge of Boats over the River Rhine


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour and gouache on paper
Support: 139 × 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXCII 10

Display caption

Ehrenbreitstein is on the Rhine near Coblenz in Germany.

Gallery label, July 2004

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Catalogue entry

Turner addressed Ehrenbreitstein, the imposing fortress complex overlooking the River Rhine opposite its confluence with the Mosel at Coblenz (Koblenz), on many occasions, ranging between slight pencil sketches, colour studies, finished watercolours and an oil painting, as noted below. The lack of detail in the present atmospheric example led to its being called ‘Sketch in France’1 and ‘Castle on mountain’2 in early catalogues, and it was not until 1995 that Cecilia Powell published its true subject, as the ‘last rays of sun catch its high walls while the lower parts of the east bank of the Rhine are already in shadow ... and the masts of the bridge of boats are reflected in the still waters of the foreground.’3
Tate D28979 (Turner Bequest CCXCII 32) is a contemporary view from the same direction, focusing on the fortified skyline brightly lit and framed by a rainbow. There is also a small pencil drawing in the 1840 Würzburg, Rhine and Ostend sketchbook (D30532; Turner Bequest CCCIII 38).
Sketchbooks from other tours include numerous pencil studies: 1817: Waterloo and Rhine and Rhine (Tate; Turner Bequest CLX, CLXI); 1824: Rivers Meuse and Moselle and Trèves and Rhine (CCXVI, CCXVIII; the latter also in watercolour); 1833: Brussels up to Manheim – Rhine (CCXCVI); 1835: Prague, Nuremberg, Frankfurt and Rhine (CCCIV); 1839: First Mossel and Oxford, Trèves to Cochem and Coblenz to Mayence and Cochem to Coblenz – Home (CCLXXXIX, CCXC, CCXCI); 1841: Bern, Heidelberg and Rhine (CCCXXVI); and Rotterdam and Rhine, perhaps from the 1840s (CCCXXII).
There are also various pencil drawings on separate Turner Bequest sheets, and colour studies on blue paper associated with the 1839 tour (Tate D20261, D24804, D24809, D24833; Turner Bequest CCXXII B, CCLIX 239, 244, 268; and National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh4). A series of more atmospheric colour studies on white paper followed in 1841 (D35863, D36138, D36166, D36177, D36186, D36206, D40181; CCCLXIV 26, 285, 309, 319, 328, 346, and 328a; and private collection5).
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.640.
Finberg 1909, II, p.938.
Powell 1995, p.155.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.422 no.1034, reproduced.
Ibid., p.461 no.1340, reproduced, as ‘A fort on the Moselle or Rhine(?)’, ?1844.
Ibid., p.376 no.656, reproduced.
Ibid., no.657.
Ibid., p.379 no.687, reproduced.
Ibid., p.424 no.1051, reproduced.
Ibid., p.459 no.1320.
Ibid., pp.454–5 no.1289, reproduced.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.211–12 no.361, pl.366 (colour).
See Powell 1995, pp.150, 155.
See ibid., p.145.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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