Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Rocks of the Bastei and its Bridge, Looking Southwards


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 104 × 170 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCVI 49 a

Display caption

Turner acquired this sketchbook in Dresden just before his tour of Saxon Switzerland, a region of huge, curiously shaped fingers and cliffs of grey sandstone formed by millennia of erosion. This had become a favoured destination of artists and tourists in the late eighteenth century when it was given its name by two Swiss painters working in the Saxon capital. Turner probably spent three days in this area, arriving back in Dresden on 24 September. The Bastei consists of an astonishing group of giant pinnacles overlooking the Elbe just south of Dresden, linked by a high bridge which provides an experience as thrilling as any 'devil's bridge' in Switzerland itself.

Gallery label, April 1995

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Catalogue entry

This sketch was taken at the Bastei, a rock formation in Saxon Switzerland. Its jagged rocks and pinnacles became a tourist attraction at the end of the eighteenth century. A wooden bridge, pictured here, was constructed in 1824 to link several of the rocks for the enjoyment of tourists. Crossing it was a thrilling experience, which afforded the visitor breath-taking views of the surrounding mountains from a terrace six hundred feet over the Elbe.
The Bastei is shown again on Tate D30982–D31001; Turner Bequest CCCVI 50–59a.

Alice Rylance-Watson
August 2015

Read full Catalogue entry


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