Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Entrance to Veste Coburg


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite, watercolour and gouache on paper
Support: 190 × 278 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 11

Catalogue entry

Turner was in Coburg, then capital of the German Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, between 17 and 20 September 1840, and made many drawings of the town and its surroundings in the Venice; Passau to Würzburg sketchbook; see under Tate D31278 (Turner Bequest CCCX 1a). Cecilia Powell identified the present colour study as showing the approach to the south side of the medieval Veste Coburg fortress, high up in parkland north-east of the town, comparing it in particular with a pencil sketch in the book (D31400; CCCX 63).1
Powell has noted that the composition ‘gives a good impression of the very steep ascent ... and the vast size of its walls and bastions’ with the ‘“Bunter Löwe” bastion, surmounted by a turret and adorned with a huge stone cartouche depicting a lion flanked by griffons’ in the right foreground, as ‘a heavily laden wagon slowly crawls up the steep path on the left’,2 with the similar ‘Rautenkranz’ bastion beyond. Compared with the pencil sketch, this version gives more prominence to the plain arch spanning the road than to the heavily articulated Baroque portal reached by a short bridge over the ravine at the centre, and the walls and towers beyond are hardly developed.
This is one of four colour studies on grey paper of the Coburg area, which can all be related to Venice; Passau to Würzburg pencil sketches (see also Tate D32186, D32187 and D32188; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 7, 8, 9); there are additionally three loose watercolours on conventional white sheets (D35889, D35948, D36187; CCCLXIV 49, 105, 329).3 D32188 shows Veste Coburg in its wider hilltop setting.
Originally described as showing a ‘Fortress, with drawbridge’,4 this sheet had nevertheless been included in the ‘Venice: Miscellaneous. (b) Grey Paper’ section of Finberg’s 1909 Inventory, albeit among a handful (Tate D32185–D32191; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 6–12) of which he noted ‘some – probably all ... are not Venetian subjects’, but likely ‘done at the same time, and may therefore help to throw light on Turner’s movements.’5 In 1930 he noted that ‘some ... may have been made in the Tyrol on the way to or from Venice’.6 Other than D32189, a view of Bolzano (Bozen) from the outward leg, and D32191, which may show the Venetian Lagoon, they have all since been identified as German subjects from 1840’s return journey, and are included in this subsection (see also the technical notes).
See Powell 1995, p.172.
See also Powell 2001, p.50.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1023.
Ibid., p.1022.
Finberg 1930, p.175.
See Powell 1995, p.169.
See ibid., p.145.
See also Peter Bower, Turner’s Later Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1820–1851, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, pp.105, 107, for discussion of another such group, comprising seven Regensburg and Walhalla views included in the present subsection.
Powell 1995, p.168; see also p.81 note 2.
See Ian Warrell, ‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 11) in Warrell, David Laven, Jan Morris and others, Turner and Venice, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2003, pp.258 (under 1833), 259 section 8.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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