In this drawing Turner communicates the colossal scale of Luxembourg’s Bock plateau which towers on three sides over the Alzette River. Saint-Esprit fortress stands atop the Bock, the mighty citadel’s foundations appearing seamlessly to merge into the promontory to create one vast and perpendicular mass of rock. To the left of the citadel is the seventeenth-century Jesuit Church of St Michael rendered in delicate line and highlighted in a pale coral pink. Further to the left are the two bastions of Beck and Louis.
In the foreground at left, on a steep gradient leading to the river, stands a tiny figure suggested with the briefest of means: two short dashes, one brown and one white for the body, with a dot of brown for the head. A small flock, perhaps of goats or sheep, gathers before the figure. The addition of the diminutive man and his tiny animals is surely a device to mark differences in scale: the citadel appears simply gigantic in comparison, its dimensions amplified almost beyond belief. Indeed, Turner’s manipulation, his exaggeration, of scale in this drawing led the art critic John Ruskin (1819–1900) to describe it as ‘Probably the grandest drawing of this date’.1
The gouache is based on pencil sketches in the Givet, Mézières, Verdun, Metz, Luxemburg and Trèves sketchbook of the same date (Tate D28228–D28229; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVIII 32 a–33).
The Fogg Art Museum at Cambridge, Massachusetts owns a copy of this work produced by William Ward (1829–1908), who was one of Ruskin’s approved protégés.2
Inscribed in chalk or white gouache ‘22’ at centre towards right; inscribed in pencil ‘19b’ and ‘
34 b’ at centre towards top left; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCXXI O’ at bottom centre and inscribed in pencil ‘CCXXI O’ at bottom towards right.