Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Minnewater, Bruges


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 78 × 118 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXVI 168 a

Catalogue entry

These swiftly rendered sketches are prospects of Bruges, primarily the Minnewater, a canalised lake in the centre of the city. Once used as a dock in the medieval period, vessels entered the city via the small Minnewater port laden with cargoes of wool, wine, spices and silks. Turner’s sketch shows the cylindrical Poertoren situated on the south-eastern corner of the Minnewater, at left. It was constructed in the early fifteenth century to store gunpowder. To the tower’s immediate right is the eighteenth-century bridge crossing Minnewater Lake, and at centre is a building with a tower and conical spire. This may be a representation of the medieval Gruuthuse Palace, a former storehouse converted into the opulent mansion of the lords of Gruuthuse at the beginning of the fifteenth century.1 Adjacent to that building is the Church of Our Lady, with its turreted spire, and to the right of the Church in turn is the Belfry of Bruges, rendered in faint pencil line. Turner has also drawn a rough detail of the spire of the church towards top left, and, parallel to the gutter of the sketchbook, he has rendered a further view of the Minnewater and Poertoren and squared it off.
Turner visited Bruges briefly on his journey from Ghent to Ostend from 6 to 7 September. For other drawings of the city see Tate D12705–D12713, D19268, D19272–D19278, D19888; Turner Bequest CLX 2v–7a, CCXIV 216, 218–221, CCXVI 168a.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2014

Gruuthusemuseum, Brugge, accessed 17 September 2014,

Read full Catalogue entry

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