Joseph Mallord William Turner

Passau, with the Confluence of the Rivers Danube and Inn, from above the River Ilz


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 213 × 279 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXL 3

Catalogue entry

John Ruskin supposed this1 and other urban views in this sketchbook2 showed Grenoble, at the foot of the French Alps, nowhere near Turner’s itinerary on the present tour, perhaps on account of the confluence of waterways which he may have thought were the Rivers Drac and Isère (see the Introduction to this sketchbook). By 1973 it was suggested as a Rhine view,3 and Andrew Wilton published the true identification the following year,4 and rightly compared the view to pencil studies in the contemporary Venice; Passau to Würzburg sketchbook (Tate D31384, D31386; Turner Bequest CCCX 55, 56); see also D31383, D31385 and D31387 (CCCX 54a, 55a, 56a).
Cecilia Powell has described Passau as ‘superbly situated at the confluence of three rivers’:
the blue Danube, the green Inn and the black Ilz as they are popularly described. From high viewpoints it can be observed that both the first two retain their own distinctive colouring (if not precisely the hues above) for a considerable distance below the confluence.5
Here, the view is south-west across the mouth of the Ilz at the bottom left, where it joins the Danube between the Ilzstadt, with the spire of St Bartholomew’s Church, and the Niederhaus fortifications directly overlooking the confluence. The heights crowned by the Oberhaus fortress on the right tower over the Danube, while beyond the Altstadt peninsula at the heart of the city, the view to the middle distance is up the Inn.6 Powell has observed that here ‘Passau seems to be a tiny island city, floating in mist’.7 Wilton has suggested that the ‘pale washes over their delicate but precise skeleton of pencil-work constitute a tour de force in the economical yet concrete evocation of space and atmosphere.’8
Two less detailed contemporary colour studies and third in pencil on grey paper show closely variant views (Tate D28993, D29006, D33871; Turner Bequest CCXCII 46, 57, CCCXLI 174),9 while D33674–D33675 (CCCXL 9–10), at the back of the present sketchbook, presents a panoramic view over the city and confluence from west of the Oberhaus, beyond the crest on the right here. For other views of Passau from this tour, see the book’s Introduction.
See Cook and Wedderburn 1904, pp.313, 367, 630; see also Powell 1995, p.157.
See Finberg 1909, II, p.1064.
See Reid, Wilton and Herrmann 1973, p.132.
Wilton 1974, p.161.
Powell 1995, pp.157–8.
See Stainton 1982, p.77, and Powell 1995, p.158.
Powell 1995, p.158.
Wilton 1982, p.56.
See Powell 1995, pp.158–9.
Wilton 1979, p.458 no.1317, reproduced.
Ibid.; see also Stainton 1982, p.77, Dawson 1988, p.116, and Mac Nally 2012, p.102.
Wilton 1979, p.483 no.1524, pl.248.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.313.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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