Joseph Mallord William Turner

Six Views on the Meuse at and near Namur

1824

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 118 × 78 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D19649
Turner Bequest CCXVI 50

Catalogue entry

This page of six sketches pictures the Meuse at and near Namur. The largest of the drawings, which extends from the upper to middle register, shows Namur citadel on the crest of a ridge overlooking the confluence of the Meuse and Sambre. Above this view is an intriguing inscription in French: ‘Des Chretiens | Le Se C[...] | Soyez vous | Favorable’. The first part of the inscription, ‘Des Chrétiens’, translates as ‘Christians’, but it is the text which follows that proves puzzling. ‘Soyez vous favorable’ directly translates as the instruction: ‘Be favourable to yourself’; this statement also happens to form the first part of the sentence, ‘Soyez vous favorable, cela ne vous arrivera pas’ (‘Be propitious to Thyself, Lord, this shall not be unto thee’) in the French translation of Thomas Aquinas’s Catena Aurea or Golden Chain. 1 Of course it may well be a coincidence that Turner’s language is, at least in part, identical to the French version of this ancient Patristic commentary on the Gospels, but it also may be that Turner saw this text inscribed somewhere on his journey.
One diminutive view is squared off at far right, annotated with a somewhat scrawled inscription that appears to read either ‘St Mark’ (perhaps referring to the village of Saint-Marc, a commune in the north-east of Namur) or ‘Le Meuse’. The remaining views show picturesque stretches of the river with notes marking out ‘figures landing’, ‘vines’, and where ‘light’ fell on the banks.

Alice Rylance-Watson
March 2014

1
The words are spoken by Jerome in a dialogue with Origen Adamantius in Chapter XVI of the Catena Aurea; see ‘Gospel of Matthew’, Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea, trans. J.G.F. and J. Rivington, London, 1842, p.591. There is a digitised version of the full text available in English and Latin on the website of the Dominican House of Studies Priory: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/CAMatthew.htm#16

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