At the upper register Turner has made a swift sketch of Kesten on the Moselle, inscribing above it what appears to read ‘Kesen’. The church there is shown in three small jottings around the inscription. The following sketches are orientated inversely and show Kesten with a pontoon bridge of boats. The inscription beneath one of these sketches is of particular interest: Turner has written ‘Napoleon passed here’, which, as Powell writes:
enables his scene to be linked with Napoleon’s journey to the Rhineland in September and October 1804, on a tour which took him from Cologne to Coblenz to Mainz on the new route Napoléon, and then on to Mannheim and further afield. The earliest stage of his tour had included visits to Brussels and Aachem (ostensibly as a pilgrimage to Charlemagne’s tomb, but really as a prelude to his own coronation as Emperor at the end of 1804). On its final lap he returned home through Trier and Luxembourg.1
Of this particular scene, Powell points out that ‘Turner would not, of course, have seen the temporary bridge of pontoons used by Napoleon: those shown in his 1839 sketch existed only in his imagination’.2 A gouache and watercolour drawing on blue paper was made after this sketch in late 1839 (Tate D20277; Turner Bequest CCXXII R).