Joseph Mallord William Turner

Kesten and Monzel


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 138 × 188 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXII R

Catalogue entry

This gouache was originally catalogued according to an inscription which appears in one of Turner’s preparatory sketches (see Tate D28421; Turner Bequest CCXC 36). Depicting an unidentified village, the sketch bares the inscription: ‘Napoleon passed here’. Following the 1991 Turner’s Rivers of Europe exhibition, however, it was found that the unidentified village in the sketch was actually Kesten, a settlement which lies on the banks of the Moselle between Bernkastel-Kues and Piesport.1
Set against an expansive sky, Kesten’s Church, white-washed with a slate-grey spire, can be seen lying between the sombre mauve coloured slopes of the Monzeler Hüttenkopf. The profile of the town is summarily suggested in opaque pale pink and white gouache and the pontoon bridge rendered in swift flecks and curved strokes of wine-coloured wash.
The troops of Napoleon Bonaparte are known to have crossed the Moselle at Kesten, and the French Eperor himself is recorded to have spent the night there during his tour of the Rhineland in September to October of 1804. The tour was occasioned by a visit to Brussels and Aachen where Napoleon stopped at the tomb of Charlemagne. As Cecilia Powell writes, Napoleon’s ‘route took him from Cologne to Coblenz by boat, from Coblenz to Mainz on the new route Napoléon built by his own armies and then onto Mannheim and beyond’.2
This discovery was made by Mr Reinhold Schommers of the Kulturabteilung KVHS Cochem-Zell and published in Cecilia Powell’s Turner in Germany, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1995, p.126–7 no.45.
Powell 1995, p.126–7 no.45.
Stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCXXII–R’ bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘CCXXII–R’ bottom centre and ‘J | 28 | L’ at centre towards top.

Alice Rylance-Watson
September 2013

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