Joseph Mallord William Turner

Passau from the Ilzstadt, above the Confluence of the River Ilz with the Danube


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 142 × 188 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXCII 46

Catalogue entry

As Cecilia Powell recognised,1 this colour study shows the prospect south-west over Passau from the open ground above the spire of St Bartholomäus’s Church on the Ilzstadt. The River Ilz winds to the left beyond the church, passing the towers of the Niederhaus overlooking its confluence with the much larger Danube. Above the spire towards the top right is the Oberhaus, looking over the centre of Passau. The tip of the Altstadt peninsula is shown beyond the Niederhaus, with the twin towers of St Michael’s Church and, above the centre, the silhouetted dome and towers of the cathedral. The twin spires of the Mariahilf church are towards the top left, on the slopes south of the River Inn, itself absorbed by the Danube at the confluence off the near end of the Altstadt.
There is a pencil sketch from very close by in the contemporary Venice; Passau to Würzburg sketchbook (Tate D31384; Turner Bequest CCCX 55); see under D31371 (CCCX 48a) in that book for its numerous other sketches, and those in two other sketchbooks, including colour studies. All this activity in mid-September 1840 led to one finished watercolour on conventional white paper, Passau, Germany, at the Confluence of the Rivers Inn and Danube (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin),2 from an effectively imaginary elevated viewpoint over the Danube south of the one used here.
Tate D29006 (Turner Bequest CCXCII 57) is a similar colour study, with trees introduced in the left foreground as a repoussoir device, while D33871 (CCCXLI 174) is in pencil alone, apart from a little white chalk marking the rivers. Powell has observed that Turner’s relatively loose ‘style here is ... consistent with many of the pencil drawings on grey paper which he made in 1840 and did not bother to colour. The fact that he did colour this drawing (and [D29006]) underlines the special significance he attached to Passau on this tour.’3 Compare the more elaborate treatment in a watercolour study of much the same view on the white paper of the Passau and Burg Hals sketchbook (Tate D33668; Turner Bequest CCCXL 3).
See Powell 1995, pp.158–9.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.458 no.1317, reproduced.
Powell 1995, p.159.
See also ibid., pp.69, 81 note 42.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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