Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Interior of the Walhalla, at Donaustauf near Regensburg

1840

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Chalk and graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 192 × 278 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D34084
Turner Bequest CCCXLI 363

Catalogue entry

Turner visited Donaustauf, on the north bank of the River Danube about five miles east of Regensburg in southern Germany, to see the Greek temple-style Walhalla monument, then nearing completion ahead of its opening in 1842. He made numerous pencil drawings in the vicinity in the contemporary Venice, Passau to Würzburg book; see under Tate D31341 (Turner Bequest CCCX 33a) for further details. Cecilia Powell identified the present work as ‘a quick sketch of its unfinished interior’.1
King Ludwig I of Bavaria (ruled 1825–1848) had been planning a Hall of Fame to commemorate prominent Germans since the events of the Napoleonic War had stirred feelings of Romantic nationalism. Marble busts of royal, military, scientific, literary and artistic figures had already been in preparation for many years when building commenced in 1830, and by the time of Turner’s visit the building was nearing completion ahead of its opening in October 1842. Additions are still made from time to time.2
The elaborately decorated but essentially barn-like interior is notionally divided into thirds by the projecting supports with paired polychromatic caryatid figures below the main roof trusses, with the busts arrayed within the wide alcoves. Looking from near the south entrance, Turner articulates the west side of the hall, with the columned recess at the far end on the right, with a few deft pencil strokes, with the busts (or perhaps just their individual corbelled plinths at this stage) picked out in white against the bare mid-tone of the paper which fortuitously stands for the grey marble walls. Contemporary engravings show a simple coffered pitched ceiling with three large skylights,3 as seen today, but Turner seems to have improvised a shallow barrel vault, perhaps either through haste or poor light. He also managed to make a slight sketch of part of the interior and a rough but serviceable ground plan inside the covers of the Venice, Passau to Würzburg book (Tate D41400–D41401).
As discussed in the technical notes below, the present study is one of seven of Regensburg and the Walhalla (see also Tate D32185, D34081, D34085, D34093, D36150, D36153; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 6, CCCXLI 360, 364, 371, CCCLXIV 293, 296) which were initially eighths of a single sheet; D36151 (CCCLXIV 294) is a related view on similar paper. Of these, D34085 and D34093 show the Walhalla in its landscape setting. See also a loose watercolour study on conventional white paper (Tate D36174; Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 316).
1
Powell 1995, p.70; see also pp.82 note 53, 180, and Powell 2001, p.370.
2
This account is based largely on the more detailed information in Powell 1995, pp.70, 179–80.
3
Ibid., fig.55.
1
See ibid., pp.167–8.
2
See Bower 1999, pp.105, 107 no.59, with one side of the overall arrangement reproduced in colour p.69, the other in black and white p.106.
3
Ibid., pp.105, 107.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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