Here Turner depicts the Rham plateau at Luxembourg, the silhouette of its imposing fortifications rendered in maroon at right. Sheer cliffs flank the Alzette river valley to the left and right, and the waterway itself is suggested with a flash of bright azure gouache at centre. Dark green hatching, stipples, and short scalloped lines suggest the vegetation which creeps up into the foothills of the valley. As Cecilia Powell notes, the scene has a rather ‘brooding’ atmosphere to it, evoking the diminishing light of sundown.1
This gouache is derived from a rough pencil sketch in the Givet, Mézières, Verdun, Metz, Luxemburg and Trèves sketchbook (see Tate D28266; Turner Bequest CCLXXXVIII 56 a). For other of Turner’s 1839 gouaches of Luxembourg see Tate D20244–D20249, D20264, D20270, D20272–D20273, D20284–D20285, N05240; Turner Bequest CCXXI K–CCXXI P, CCXXII E, CCXXII K, CCXXII M–CCXXII N, CCXXII Y–CCXXII Z.
The English gentleman-artist Hercules Brabazon Brabazon (1821–1906) produced a watercolour drawing loosely based on this gouache, a work dubbed as a ‘souvenir’ of the original.2 There was an established practice of studying, copying, and emulating Turner’s drawings, particularly expounded by the art critic and writer John Ruskin in the mid to later decades of the nineteenth century. For example, in his 1857 publication The Elements of Drawing, Ruskin exhorted his readers to copy Turner’s watercolours at London’s National Gallery, including a list of approved examples from which to work.3
Inscribed in chalk or white gouache ‘2’ at top right; inscribed in pencil ‘CCLIX 177’ at bottom right.