Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Fortress and Town of Ehrenbreitstein from Coblenz; Beilstein and Burg Metternich, Looking Upstream: from Fankel and from slightly further Downstream

1839

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 140 x 235 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D28302
Turner Bequest CCLXXXIX 6 a

Display caption

'First Mossel and Oxford' was Turner's own name for this sketchbook which he had already half-used before taking it to Germany in 1839. His portrait of Ehrenbreitstein is the largest and most complex sketch of all those drawn on this tour. It provides the greatest possible contrast to the remainder of the German ones in this sketchbook, mostly similar to the very quick records seen at the edge of f.6v which Turner made from a boat on the Mosel which was carrying him downstream from Beilstein.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

This view of the town and fortress of Ehrenbreitstein is the single largest and most developed of any sketch taken by Turner during his 1839 tour of the Meuse-Moselle region. The prospect is expansive and highly detailed, continuing onto the folio opposite (Tate D28303; Turner Bequest CCLXXXIX 7) to offer the viewer a comprehensive and almost itemised impression of Ehrenbreitstein’s topography and architecture. This rewardingly descriptive drawing was, it seems, produced in and for itself. It did not form the basis of a finished gouache drawing, as other of the 1839 Meuse-Moselle pencil sketches had done.
Turner took the view from a vantage point on the opposite bank of the Rhine, on a landing stage at Koblenz. He orientated the drawing inversely relative to the foliation. As the art historian Cecilia Powell points out, the horizontal format of this sketchbook was particularly suitable for capturing the vast extent of the fortress.1
By the time of Turner’s visit in 1839 the Festung Ehrenbreitstein had undergone great changes. It had been severely damaged by Napoleonic armies at the turn of the century as a result of repeated sieges and occupations. But with the return of peace in 1815, the Prussians began to demolish and later to rebuild the citadel to even grander proportions. The new fortress was completed in the first years of the 1830s and stocked, as Powell writes, with ‘400 pieces of heavy ordnance on its ramparts, cisterns with enough fresh water for a three-year siege, stores with sufficient provisions to feed 8,000 men for ten years’ and estimated to be ‘capable of housing an army of 100,000’.2 The magnitude and impenetrability of Ehrenbreitstein is certainly suggested in this drawing, but it appears perhaps a little less forbidding than Turner’s depiction of the fortress during its demolition in 1817 (Tate impression: T06067).
The viewer will notice that part of Ehrenbreitstein fortress has been drawn over with two landscapes of Beilstein and the Burg Metternich. Executed in light and tentative line, Turner has inscribed the drawings ‘Fangles’ (for Fankel, the town which neighbours Beilstein) and ‘Washing’, presumably to signify the washing of textiles at the water’s edge. The Burg Metternich, seen in profile atop a mount in the distance in one of the sketches, is a ruined medieval fortress which was once ‘the property of the Electors of Trèves, but was held for them by the noble vassals the counts of Matternich and Winneburg’.3

Alice Rylance-Watson
August 2013

1
Powell 1991, p.128 no.44.
2
Powell 1995, pp.103–5.
3
Bartholomew Stritch, The Meuse, the Moselle, and the Rhine; or, A six weeks' tour through the finest river scenery in Europe, by B.S., London 1845, p.57.

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