Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Spitalgasse, Coburg, from the Weisser Schwan Hotel


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite, watercolour and gouache on paper
Support: 190 × 280 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 7

Catalogue entry

Turner was in Coburg, then capital of the German Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, between 17 and 20 September 1840, and made many drawings of the town and its surroundings in the Venice; Passau to Würzburg sketchbook; see under Tate D31278 (Turner Bequest CCCX 1a). Cecilia Powell identified the present colour study, comparing it with one of the small pencil sketches on D31278 and describing the scene:
Both show the view from an upper window of Turner’s hotel in Coburg, the Weisser Schwan in Spitalgasse which runs north from the market place. The largest house shown in Spitalgasse (on the extreme left) is the very ornate Lucchesehause with a curved pedimental roofline and giant figures supporting its entrance porch. Above the gabled houses further to the right looms the dark spire of St Moriz’s church which Turner could have seen only from an upstairs window in the hotel. The view terminates in the town hall on the south side of the market square, a building with a large pitched roof and central turret ...1
The latter features also appear in Tate D32187 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 8), a similar colour study of the market place.2 Powell continued: ‘the foreground ... is alive with bustle and activity. Passengers are obviously arriving or departing by carriage in front of the hotel itself, while their horse thankfully accepts a nosebag from the coachman.’ This is one of four grey paper views around Coburg, which can all be related to Venice; Passau to Würzburg pencil sketches (see also Tate D32188 and D32190; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 9, 11); there are additionally three loose watercolours on conventional white sheets (D35889, D35948, D36187; CCCLXIV 49, 105, 329).3
Originally described as simply showing ‘A market place’,4 this sheet had nevertheless been included in the ‘Venice: Miscellaneous. (b) Grey Paper’ section of Finberg’s 1909 Inventory, albeit among a handful (Tate D32185–D32191; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 6–12) of which he noted ‘some – probably all ... are not Venetian subjects’, but likely ‘done at the same time, and may therefore help to throw light on Turner’s movements.’5 He later tentatively annotated his entry: ‘? Innsbruck’;6 and in 1930 he noted that ‘some ... may have been made in the Tyrol on the way to or from Venice’.7 Other than D32189, a view of Bolzano (Bozen) from the outward leg, and D32191, which may show the Venetian Lagoon, they have all since been identified as German subjects from 1840’s return journey, and are included in this subsection (see also the technical notes).
Powell 1995, p.169.
See ibid.
See also Powell 2001, p.50.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1022.
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1022.
Finberg 1930, p.175.
Powell 1995, p.169.
See ibid.
See ibid., p.145.
See also Peter Bower, Turner’s Later Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1820–1851, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, pp.105, 107, for discussion of another such group, comprising seven Regensburg and Walhalla views included in the present subsection.
Powell 1995, p.168; see also p.81 note 2.
See Ian Warrell, ‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 11) in Warrell, David Laven, Jan Morris and others, Turner and Venice, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2003, pp.258 (under 1833), 259 section 8.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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