- Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
- Part of
- The Route from Venice: Passau; Regensburg and the Walhalla; Coburg and Schloss Rosenau; Würzburg
- Graphite, watercolour and gouache on paper
- Support: 192 × 281 mm
- Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 296
Technique and condition
This work is on medium weight, wove grey paper made by Bally, Ellan and Steart at the De Montalt Mill in Bath, Somerset. The paper has a ‘B E & S’ watermark, and countermark ‘1829’. Turner has applied thin washes of colour to the wet paper in broadly horizontal sweeps, and then sketched the topography very cursorily over the paint in graphite pencil. He worked up the foreground with more localised and more intensely coloured washes but no more drawing, and finally freely worked on the sky. Here he layered lead white gouache and then pale chrome yellow for the sunset, using the same technique as in his oil paintings, to maximise the brilliance of the pale yellow. Some of the thinnest areas of chrome yellow appear to have darkened. Turner was an early user of lead white in gouache, and by the middle of the nineteenth century other artists were also using it regularly. Lead white in scanty amounts of gum water as Turner used it, can easily discolour to a speckled or solid dark brown when it reacts with hydrogen sulphide gas, a common urban pollutant during the nineteenth century. Here, the chrome yellow may have behaved in the same way, since it is unevenly coloured now. The colour change begins in an extremely thin surface layer: in oil paints which can be sampled for cross-sections, such a layer is so very thin that it cannot be seen even with a high-quality optical microscope. Thinly applied layers of paint are more likely to reveal the change, because there is less unaltered material underneath. Chrome yellows were greatly mistrusted in Turner’s day on account of such colour changes, but in fact these changes can rarely be observed with certainty in his watercolours or oil paintings.
Scratching-out has been done with a soft point, in a few areas. White highlights in the foreground were applied in a rather insubstantial-looking white paint that probably is not based on lead white. Such paint, unprotected by other layers, would probably have darkened in the same way as the chrome yellow in the sky.
This view was identified by Cecilia Powell as a prospect from the slopes of the Dreifaltigkeitsberg (Holy Trinity hill) north of Regensburg in southern Germany, from near the eponymous Dreifaltigkeitskirche:
From here and the adjacent cemetery a fine view may be obtained not only of Regensburg itself but also of the Regen, the Danube tributary that gives the city its name. In Turner’s drawing Regensburg is seen on the right, the cathedral conspicuous by its bulk and two towers, the bridge over the Danube and the bridge tower just distinguishable to its right. On the left is the village of Reinhausen and the Regen, occupying the centre of the picture, flows away to join the Danube in the middle distance. The small white dot on the purple hillside above Reinhausen is the distant Walhalla, its pristine marble sparkling against its dusky hill.1
As discussed in the technical notes below, the present study is one of seven of Regensburg and the nearby Walhalla monument at Donaustauf (see also Tate D32185, D34081, D34084–D34085, D34093, D36150; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 6, CCCXLI 360, 363, 364, 371, CCCLXIV 293) which were initially eighths of a single sheet; D36151 (CCCLXIV 294) is a related view on similar paper. D34081 is a slightly less detailed pencil outline from further back, showing the church in the left foreground, with a touch of white above the spire suggesting that Turner was thinking of developing it in colour with a similar early morning effect.
The subject was long misidentified as a view of Metz,2 on the River Moselle in north-east France, partly by comparison with a pencil sketch of the city from a cemetery with a similar cross in the foreground, in the 1839 Givet, Mézières, Verdun, Metz, Luxemburg and Trèves sketchbook (Tate D28221; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVIII 28);3 compare also Tate D24757 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 192), a related gouache on blue paper Noting the ‘praying figure’ among the memorials in the foreground here, Powell observed: ‘Turner’s perennial search for good viewpoints often led him, ...to hillsides and graveyards outside villages and towns’.4
- River Danube(125)