Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Ilz Valley below the Oberhaus, Passau


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 126 × 198 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCX 57 a

Catalogue entry

As Cecilia Powell recognised,1 this horizontal sketch shows the winding valley of the Ilz towards Passau, looking south-west downstream to the imposing Oberhaus fortress. The craggy slopes below it are now thickly wooded. Today, similar houses overlook a broad embankment on the Ilzstadt side to the left, and the insubstantial wooden bridge has been replaced. The spire of St Bartholomäus’s Church rises beyond the hillside, and past the crossing on the opposite side are the shallow apse and pitched roof of St Salvator’s Church, overlooking the bend where the Ilz passes out of sight to the left and flows into the Danube near its confluence with the Inn. The centre of the city is hidden beyond the Oberhaus; compare various elevated views from above St Bartholomäus’s on adjacent pages, such as folio 55 recto (D31388).
There is a slight reprise or continuation of part of the view at the top left, and a similar detail above the opposite corner, across the gutter on folio 58 recto opposite (D31390). Turner has made a written note of what Finberg read as a ‘Maid washing ...’;2 Powell’s reading was more fragmentary,3 but the first few letters may well be ‘Maid’ and this seems typical of the artist’s ad hoc thumbnail sketches or notes of the everyday activities he encountered.
The order in which Turner used the pages of this book is not always self-evident or continuous, but this scene and the adjacent Ilzstadt views were evidently recorded just before or after he visited Hals and its dramatic ruined castle, just a mile or two up the meandering Ilz; see under folio 58 verso (D31391). For numerous contemporary views of Passau itself in this sketchbook and elsewhere, see under folio 48 verso (D31371).

Matthew Imms
September 2018

See Powell 1995, p.244.
Finberg 1909, II, p.999.
See Powell 1995, p.244.

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