Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ehrenbreitstein: ‘The March of N from Cob[lenz]’


Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 220 × 292 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 27

Catalogue entry

This is one of thirteen loose sheets found grouped together, a number of which are believed to be ideas for compositions relating to the life of Napoleon; for more information see the Introduction to this section.
This study has been identified as a view of the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein, a location that can also be connected to Turner’s inscription, which appears to read ‘The March of N from Cob’.1 Coblenz, a city on the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers which Turner visited and sketched a number of times, provided a vantage point of Ehrenbreitstein, here depicted in red using pale washes of colour. In a group of colour studies dated to around the same time Turner rendered the fortress in different colours and light conditions; for a sheet in which the fortress appears in red see Tate D36138 (Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 285). Within the present group of colour studies another four have been either firmly or tentatively identified as views of Ehrenbreitstein (Tate D27543, D27549, D27553, D27555; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 26, 32, 36, 38).
Coblenz, which had been taken by the French Revolutionary army in 1794, was visited by Napoleon, presumably the ‘N’ of Turner’s inscription, during his 1804 tour of the Rhineland. He then left for Mainz ‘on the new route Napoléon built by his own armies’.2 In 1812 the French erected a fountain in the town commemorating Napoleon’s invasion of Russia; the city was occupied by Russian troops in 1814. Ehrenbreitstein was one of many, and perhaps the most prominent, fortress destroyed by Napoleon’s troops: the French held the fortress between 1799 and 1801, but when Napoleon’s troops were forced to withdraw from the right bank of the Rhine they destroyed it for strategic reasons. The fortress was rebuilt following the Wars; Cecilia Powell has argued that Turner’s first tour of the Rhine in 1817, when he witnessed the impact of the then recent Wars first hand, continued to exert influence even on his much later depictions of the area.3
Piggott 1993, p.95; Warrell 2014, p.204.
Cecilia Powell, Turner In Germany, London 1995, pp.126–7 no.45.
Cecilia Powell, Turner in Germany, London 1995, pp.55–6.
Technical notes:

Elizabeth Jacklin
September 2018

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