Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Bock and the Rham, Luxembourg, above the Alzette Valley

c.1839

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Gouache, pen and ink and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 142 x 191 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D20246
Turner Bequest CCXXI M

Display caption

Among the many vividly coloured views of European scenery made by Turner in the later 1830s is a group depicting Luxembourg, dating from c.1839. He was evidently fascinated by the dramatic scenery of the city, with its series of massive fortified rocks creating powerful silhouettes and dizzying perspectives. Pencil drawings in his sketchbooks were elaborated in numerous coloured variants. Here the foreground fortifications, with a fanciful army of spearmen, are those of the Rham; the Rocher du Bock fills the centre of the composition; beyond, to right, is the Grünewald.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Employing a similarly rich and vivid colour palette as Tate D20249; Turner Bequest CCXXI P, here Turner depicts Luxembourg with the fortified Rham plateau extending diagonally in the foreground and the Rocher du Bock, cloaked in an ethereal mist, across the centre. The Grünewald is suggested at right towards the distance.
The scene largely derives from two pencil sketches in the Givet, Mézières, Verdun, Metz, Luxemburg and Trèves sketchbook of 1839 (Tate D28268, D28270; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVIII 57a, 58a). However, as Cecilia Powell points out, ‘much has been omitted’ from the preparatory drawings and ‘much added’ to the gouache ‘from the storehouse of Turner’s imagination’. 1 Embellishments are found, for example, at bottom left, where a parade of soldiers are depicted shouldering gleaming spears and marching on a diagonal path carved into the edge of the Rham ridge.
For other of Turner’s 1839 gouaches of Luxembourg see Tate D20244–D20245, D20247–D20249, D20264, D20270, D20273, D20284–D20285, N05240; Turner Bequest CCXXI K–CCXXI L, CCXXI N–CCXXI P, CCXXII E, CCXXII K, CCXXII N, CCXXII Y–CCXXII Z.
1
Powell 1991, pp.178–9 no.125.
Verso:
Inscribed with white chalk or gouache ‘17’ at centre; with pencil ‘17a’ at centre towards left and ‘33’ scribbled out at centre right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCXXI M’ bottom centre and inscribed in pencil ‘CCXXI M’ centre towards bottom.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2013

Read full Catalogue entry

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