This evocative view of the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein at Koblenz is particularly striking amongst the other 1839 Moselle gouaches for its abstracted and indistinct rendering of topography. It should be viewed as one of a group of three similarly impressionist gouaches of this subject (Tate D24804, D24833; Turner Bequest CCLIX 239, 268) which Cecilia Powell proposes were intended, when put together, to show a ‘wide-angled view’ from the same or similar viewpoint.1
Ehrenbreitstein, known also by its English name, the ‘broad stone of honour’, is here rendered in mauve wash and highlighted with peach-coloured gouache. The mauve pigment has bled and feathered into the translucent teal wash used to mark out the land mass below. The sky is in blurry overcast, with the exception of a flash of brilliant azure blue where the clouds have separated.
Ehrenbreitstein Citadel was built by the Prussians between 1817 and 1828 on the foundations of earlier fortifications.2 Its chief function was to guard the middle Rhine region from its strategic location at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers. Ehrenbreitstein was by far Prussia’s largest citadel and the backbone of their garrisons. It was described by Quin as ‘a most magnificent pile’ which ‘may justly be considered the great bulwark of Prussian dominions towards the confines of France’.3 Despite Quin’s rather military description, Turner, in this drawing, aestheticises the fortress, demobilising it from a colossal ‘bulwark’, redolent of the brutality of war, through a process of painterly abstraction.
Powell 1991, p.150 no.82.
‘History of the Fortress’, Die Festung Ehrenbreitstein, accessed 13 August 2014, http://www
.diefestungehrenbreitstein .de /index .php ?id =20309
Michael Joseph Quin, Steam voyages on the Seine, the Moselle, & the Rhine: with railroad visits to the principal cities of Belgium, London 1843, p.88–9.
There has been some fading and discolouration of the pigment and support due to exposure to sunlight following the picture’s exhibition.
Inscribed in pencil ‘CCLIX 244’ bottom right