Joseph Mallord William Turner

Franchimont with the Church of Saints Hermes and Alexander, Theux


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache, pen and ink and watercolour on paper
Support: 141 × 192 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXII U

Display caption

Before travelling up the Meuse, Turner made an excursion from Liège to Spa which took him past the ruined medieval castle of Franchimont, the stronghold of William de la Marck, the 'Wild Boar of the Ardennes', whose dire exploits are described in Sir Walter Scott's novel 'Quentin Durward'. Turner's five gouache studies, showing Franchimont from different stages of his journey, have stylistic and colouristic elements in common but each has its own special mood. In no.109 he suggests a pearly dawn with the castle just catching the first rosy light of morning; no.111 is bristling with Romantic energy; while nos.112-113 enjoy a lighter mood.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

The Scottish publisher William Chambers called the Château Franchimont the ‘principal object demanding attention’ on his route from nearby Pepinster.1 Three years earlier, in 1839, Turner passed by Franchimont on an excursion from Liège to Spa. It is clear that the artist’s attention was equally arrested given that a total of five gouaches of the castle were produced from this one visit alone (see also Tate D 20266, D20269, D20289, D24732; Turner Bequest CCXXII G, J, CCXXIII D, CCLIX 167). 2
Franchimont Castle, Chambers writes, ‘occupies the summit of a steep conical mount... and at its base crouches an antiquated hamlet’, the town of Theux, pictured in the vale.3 The Church of Saints Hermes and Alexander is visible in the immediate foreground, to the left of centre. Built in the ‘eleventh to twelfth century’, Cecilia Powell writes, the church is ‘unusual’ in that it is the ‘only three-aisled basilica with flat ceilings of equal height to be found between the Loire and the Rhine’.4 In this drawing of the basilica Turner ‘has modified the arrangements of its parts’ to suit his composition, ‘but its essential character remains unaltered’.5
Veil-thin applications of lavender, rose and yellow gouache evoke the iridescent light of sunrise in this drawing which incorporates two wayfarers and their dog who have stopped to admire the radiant dawn at a clearing in the road.
William Chambers, A Tour in Switzerland in 1841, London 1842, p.8
Powell 1991, p.167 no.109.
Chambers 1842, p.8.
Powell 1991, p.167 no.109.
Stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCXXII–U’ at bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘CCXXII–U’ at bottom centre; inscribed in pencil ‘27 b’ towards top right. There is also a mark in dark green at centre left.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2013

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