Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sedan from the South-East


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 141 × 191 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLIX 13

Display caption

In the middle distance Turner shows the two principal buildings of Sedan, the seventeenth-century church of St Charles with its two black, domed towers and the colossal fortified castle dating from the Renaissance. His viewpoint is to the south-east, just outside the Porte de Bouillon. The military activities of the foreground provide the scene not only with an appropriate human element but also with the requisite sense of scale. This majestic, land-locked scene stands in complete contrast to the brilliantly coloured view at Mézières (no.103); together they form a superb conclusion to Turner's views of the Meuse.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Here Turner depicts the city of Sedan, located in the Ardennes region of northern France. The view is taken from the Porte de Bouillon toward the south-east of the city, and incorporates the twin-towered baroque Church of Saint-Charles, which is rendered in blue, and the citadel at right, coloured in peach gouache. The flat pastures and low rolling hills of the Ardennes extend expansively beyond the city.
A small troop of soldiers with horses is visible in the foreground: a supplementary but important detail which reminds the viewer of Sedan’s formidable military history. Positioned in a highly strategic location on the Meuse and within miles of the French border with Belgium, Sedan was once at the fault line of conflict during the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48). Cecilia Powell writes that the foreground also provides Turner’s view with a ‘requisite sense of scale’ with which to frame and proportion the landscape beyond. 1
Turner produced a preparatory sketch for this gouache in the Givet, Mézières, Verdun, Metz, Luxemburg and Trèves sketchbook of 1839 (Tate D28202; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVIII 18 a). The foreground fortifications are also close to those found in a sketch in Tate D28208; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVIII 21 a.
Powell 1991, p.164 no.104.
Inscribed in pencil ‘95’ at centre.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2013

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