Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Citadel of the Holy Spirit, Luxembourg, and the Church of St Michael from the Rham; The Fortifications of the Bock, Luxembourg


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 101 × 168 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXXVIII 32 a

Catalogue entry

The topography of Luxembourg, with its deep gorges, precipitous cliffs and sheer walls of rock, historically provided the city with excellent natural defenses. Atop one such rock, and depicted in the largest sketch at left, is the Citadel of the Holy Spirit (La Citadelle du Saint-Esprit). Constructed to the designs of Vauban, chief military engineer to King Louis XIV, its foundations are shown fixed right into the very pits and crags of the cliff atop which it stands. This lends the edifice a sense of total impenetrability and of colossal scale. A part of the old city, or Ville Haute, is visible between the citadel and the Church of St Michael, marked by a tall and slender baroque tower. Turner produced this sketch from the Rham plateau, a fortified high plain looking over the Alzette which afforded a magnificent view of Luxembourg’s celebrated monuments.
Below the principal sketch is a small and rough drawing of the Bock, a rocky promontory upon which a fortified castle was built in the tenth century and subsequently reinforced, attacked and demolished through the centuries until 1867.1
These sketches and those on the folio opposite (Tate D28229; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVIII 33) are preparatory material for a gouache, pen and ink and watercolour drawing on blue paper of Luxembourg (private collection).2
For other sketches of Luxembourg in this book see Tate D28229–D28231, D28266–D28288; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVIII 33–34, 56a–67a. See also the earlier Rivers Meuse and Moselle sketchbook of 1824 (Tate D19712, D19714; Turner Bequest CCXVI 82, 83). For colour drawings of Luxembourg see Tate D20220, D20244–D20249, D20258, D20264, D20270, D20272–D20273, D20284, D24742; Turner Bequest CCXX M, CCXXI K–N, CCXXII O, CCXXI P, CCXXI Y, CCXXII E, CCXXII K, CCXXII M, CCXXII N, CCXXII Y, CCLIX 177; N05240.

Alice Rylance-Watson
May 2013

‘Bock Casemates’, Visit Luxembourg,, accessed 23 May 2013.
See Powell 1991, p.175 no.122.

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