Joseph Mallord William Turner

Luxembourg from the Bourbon Plateau

c.1839

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Gouache, pen and ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 141 × 188 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D20264
Turner Bequest CCXXII E

Display caption

In Turner's day Luxembourg was noted as the strongest fortress town in Europe and regarded as virtually impregnable. Built on several different vast cliffs above the confluence of the Alzette and the Pétrusse, it consisted of numerous sets of fortifications, most notably the Citadel of St-Esprit (no.121), the Bock (nos.124, 125) and the Rham (no.123). The first two of these are linked by the eighteenth-century Pont du Château visible in nos.122 and 124. The monumental grandeur of Luxembourg inspired Turner to paint more gouache studies than any other sight on his 1839 tour; the recent discovery of no.122 brings the known total up to twenty.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

This view of Luxembourg from the Bourbon plateau was produced from ‘a fusion of memory and imagination’, according to Cecilia Powell.1 The foreground, for example, features an invented fortification with openings to a warren of underground tunnels.2 The topography beyond incorporates the city’s fortified Bock and Rham plateaux with the citadel of Saint-Esprit.
In contrast to Tate D20284; Turner Bequest CCXXII Y, the viewpoint here is much closer to the city. The palette employed to render both drawings is similar, however, both being comprised of muted, earthy tones of green, ochre and mauve.
1
Powell 1991, p.174 no.120.
2
Ibid.
Verso:
Stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCXXII–E’ at bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘CCXXII E’ at bottom right.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2013

Read full Catalogue entry

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