Joseph Mallord William Turner

Passau from the Confluence of the Rivers Danube, Inn and Ilz


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 127 × 198 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXCIX 18

Catalogue entry

These three closely related views were made with the page turned horizontally both ways. Cecilia Powell has identified them as ‘views of Passau, looking upstream towards the confluence from a boat, going upriver’,1 and described them as ‘quick pencil records of his first view’2 as the city ‘comes into sight, its spires and domes impossibly clustered on what seems to be an island site’.3 Turner had travelled west up the Danube from Vienna (see under folio 40 recto; D30076), as recorded in the extensive sequence of sketches of ‘dark woods and tortuous bends’4 set out in this sketchbook’s Introduction.
At Passau the Danube is augmented by major and minor tributaries, the Inn and the Ilz respectively, and Turner’s waterborne views are all to the west from this confluence. From the alignment of various buildings, the central view was likely made first; at the centre is the Altstadt peninsula at the centre of the city. The main tower and Baroque onion dome of St Stephen’s Cathedral are flanked by the twin towers of St Michael’s Church on the left and the slender clocktower of the Altes Rathaus to the right, apparently with the spire of St Paul’s Church beyond. To the left, across the Inn, is the spire of St Gertraud’s Church, with the twin spires of the Mariahilf church on the slopes above. Where the Danube flows in towards the right, the Niederhaus fortress is outlined overlooking the mouth of the Ilz, with the ramparts of the Oberhaus climbing the hillside beyond.
The top view along the outer edge is from a little nearer the city, with some sharper details. The Niederhaus is shown more clearly and the profile of the cathedral’s dome is more characteristic, with the twin spires of the Niedernburg convent now included below it. In the foreground on the right, buildings on the Ilzstadt include the spire of St Bartholomäus’s Church. The inverted view squeezed in along the gutter shows many of the same features from nearer the Ilzstadt bank, aligned to show the arches of the Maxbrücke (since replaced) up the Danube. The sequence is continued with a partial reprise among unrelated Danube sketches on folio 17 verso opposite (D30035).
Powell 1995, p.241.
Ibid., p.81 note 39.
Ibid., p.68.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.458 no.1317, reproduced.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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