Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ehrenbreitstein, with a Double Rainbow


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite, watercolour and gouache on paper
Support: 141 × 193 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXCII 32

Catalogue entry

The subject, very familiar from Turner’s work but rendered less so by its tight focus, is the southern end of the fortress complex at Ehrenbreitstein, above the east bank of the River Rhine overlooking Coblenz and the confluence with the Mosel. The artist’s many encounters with the scene are noted under Tate D28957 (Turner Bequest CCXCII 10) in the present subsection, a loosely atmospheric colour study towards sunset. By contrast, as Cecilia Powell has noted, here ‘the fortress is quite crisply delineated but is dwarfed by the immense and brilliant rainbow soaring over it.’1
Turner depicts a relatively unusual double rainbow, suggesting that the effect was directly observed if not recorded on this occasion; using the same red, ochre and white as in the landscape below, there is no attempt to suggest the full spectrum. This is characteristic of most of his colour studies of the phenomenon over many years; compare a Thames view in the 1805 Hesperides (1) sketchbook (Tate D05837; Turner Bequest XCIII 40a), where the washes of the cloudy sky have been lifted to indicate a double arc without introducing any local colour.
Powell 1995, pp.154–5.
Technical notes:
Cecilia Powell has noted this as one of the many sheets of grey 1829 Bally, Ellen and Steart paper used on Turner’s 1840 tour, neatly torn as eighths or sixteenths of the overall sheet, with dimensions of around 190 x 280 or 140 x 190 mm, and variously worked with pencil, watercolour and gouache; see the technical notes in the overall Introduction for others.1
See ibid., p.145.
Blank; inscribed, possibly by Turner, in pencil with a rough ‘E’-like shape towards bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘104 | a’ right of centre; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCXCII – 32’ towards bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘CCXCII 32’ bottom right.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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