Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ehrenbreitstein from Coblenz


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 137 × 194 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLIX 239

Catalogue entry

This tranquil, impressionistic view shows Ehrenbreitstein fortress and the ridge of the same name from a vantage point at Koblenz. Boatmen sailing vessels laden with cargo can be seen close to the periphery of a sandy bank in the foreground where a parade of crescent-shaped wooden boats are moored. One boat with its sail erect has been rendered in such dilute red wash that its translucency renders it almost ethereal. Running across the central register is the bridge of boats marked out in short daubs and flecks of black wash.
When put together, this gouache and two others (Tate D24809, D24833; Turner Bequest CCLIX 244, 268), writes Cecilia Powell, form ‘a wide-angled view from the same viewpoint – or very similar ones – in the extended horizontal format often found in topographical views of rivers’.1 Turner, according to Powell, ‘would have been very familiar with many different examples of this genre’ and ‘would have undoubtedly seen numerous Rhine views conforming to this pattern – especially those of Wenzel Hollar (1607–1677) – in the print shops of Koblenz’.2 Whether this is the case or not is unverifiable, but what is certain is that the three Ehrenbreitstein gouaches are of a piece in terms of their fluid and dynamic handling, abstracted rendering of topography, and colour palette.
For Turner’s 1839 pencil sketches of Ehrenbreitstein see the First Mossel and Oxford (Tate D28297, D28301, D28306, D28316, D28317; Turner Bequest CCLXXXIX 4, 6, 7, 8a, 13a, 14) and the Cochem to Coblenz – Home sketchbooks (Tate D28603, D28605–D28607; Turner Bequest CCXCI 34a, 35a–36a). For earlier depictions of Ehrenbreitstein see the Waterloo and Rhine sketchbook of 1817 (Tate D12781–D12783, D12802–D12806, D12809; Turner Bequest CLX 42–43, 52a–54a, 56); the Rhine sketchbook of the same date (Tate D12894, D12899, D12901–D12902, D12908; Turner Bequest 7, 10, 11–11a, 15); the Rivers Meuse and Moselle sketchbook of 1824 (Tate D19785, D19818–D19821, D19826–D19830; Turner Bequest CCXVI 117a, 134–135a, 140).
Powell 1991, p.150 no.82.

Alice Rylance-Watson
September 2013

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