Joseph Mallord William Turner

Regensburg and the Steinerne Brücke on the River Danube, with a Crescent Moon


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite, watercolour, gouache and ink on paper
Support: 190 × 277 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 294

Catalogue entry

The medieval city of Regensburg in southern Germany is shown to the south-west across the River Danube, with the long Steinerne Brücke downstream, as Cecilia Powell recognised;1 the work had previously long been thought to show ‘Tours’,2 the French city on the Loire (compare the 1833 Annual Tour engravings; Tate impressions: T04685–T04686, T05579–T05580, T06198). The twin towers of Regensburg Cathedral, towards the left (as yet lacking their slender spires), are the most clearly articulated features of the city. Turner made numerous pencil drawings in the vicinity in the contemporary Venice, Passau to Würzburg book; see under Tate D31311 (Turner Bequest CCCX 18a). Compare in particular views over the river on D31351, D31359, D31361, D31363, D31365 (CCCX 38a, 42a, 43a, 44a, 45a).
This work is technically comparable to a colour study of the view south from the bridge itself, apparently in early morning light (Tate D36150; Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 293), where the city is rendered in more detail.3 That sheet is among seven direct drawings of Regensburg and the nearby Walhalla at Donaustauf which initially formed a single sheet (see also D32185, D34081, D34084–D34085, D34093, D36153; CCCXVII 6, CCCXLI 360, 363, 364, 371, CCCLXIV 296); three of the city views were worked up over their pencil outlines with watercolour and gouache. Powell has described their ‘sombre colours, sometimes articulated by dark penwork. The gravity ... exactly reflects the prevailing mood of Regensburg itself’,4 albeit Turner subsequently imparted a characteristically radiant effect to a watercolour on white paper from a viewpoint further off, identified by Ian Warrell as ‘Regensburg from the Danube, with the Cathedral and Stone Bridge, at Sunset’5 (traditionally ‘Lyons’; Victoria and Albert Museum, London);6 see the overall Introduction to the tour for other Regensburg watercolours.
With a waxing crescent moon introduced with a single white stroke in the afterglow, the present treatment complements that subject, although Turner was in the vicinity around the middle of September 1840, when the moon was just past its fullest.7 It is generally a moot point as to when colour was added to such sheets, so this may simply be retrospective artistic license, as well as serving to indicate the direction of the sunset; see also a colour study of Burg Hals, near Passau, where Turner had been a day or two before, with the evening moon shown in the same phase (Tate D24776; Turner Bequest CCLIX 211).
See Powell 1995, p.166.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.626; followed in Finberg 1909, II, p.1198.
See Powell 1995, p.166.
Ibid., p.70.
See Ian Warrell, ‘Turner in Regensburg, 1840: Conflagration and Catholicism’, Turner Society News, no.123, Spring 2015, p.6.
As given (albeit with discussion of other possibilities) in Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.487 no.1555, pl.256
See ‘Moon Phases 1840 – Lunar Calendar for Passau, Bavaria, Germany’,, accessed 21 March 2018,
See Wilton 1974, p.157; see also Powell 1995, pp.81 note 2, 166, 169.
See Powell 1995, p.145.
Ibid., p.166.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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