Joseph Mallord William Turner

Traben, Trarbach and the Grevenburg

c.1839

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 138 x 187 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D20275
Turner Bequest CCXXII P

Display caption

Traben and Trarbach face each other across the Mosel and in Turner's day were linked by the flying bridge seen on the left of no.57. In his four gouache studies of these towns he shows contrasting views and handles his materials very differently. No.57 (painted on white paper prepared with a blue wash rather than on blue paper) looks downstream at both towns, while the feathery no.60 looks upstream at Trarbach alone. In the moonlit no.58 Turner's viewpoint is well away from the Mosel, on the southern fringes of Trarbach, and in the much more richly painted no.59 he is looking down on its many towers from close to its ruined castle.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Here Turner represents what Cecilia Powell calls ‘the quintessential Moselle view of two villages on the river bank facing each other under a lofty ruined castle’.1 Traben is on the left bank and Trarbach on the right, with the ruined Grevenburg Castle presiding over the valley from atop a mount. A flying bridge can be seen on a spit of sand at Traben. Turner unites the two Moselle villages compositionally with the hollowed remains of the Grevenburg by colouring all three with brilliant white gouache, accented with pink, burgundy and mauve.
The paper for this drawing traditionally was assumed to be the ‘same Bally, Ellen & Steart flecked blue wove watercolour paper used for all the other works in the series’, the paper historian Peter Bower writes.2 In fact, ‘when the work was removed from its old backing it was found to have been worked on a white wove watercolour paper, very similar to those made by John Muggeridge at Carshalton Mill, Surrey’.3 Turner subsequently ‘made the sheet a mottled blue appearance, approximating the blue of Steart’s papers’.4 Bower points out that ‘Although Turner worked on prepared papers with various coloured grounds, particularly pale greys, throughout his career, this is the only example of him “faking” a paper’.5
This gouache is based on two pencil drawings in the fourth 1839 sketchbook (Tate D28390–D28391; Turner Bequest CCXC 20a–21). Trarbach features in three other gouaches in the Turner Bequest collection: see Tate D20234, D20240, D20259; Turner Bequest CCXXI A, G, Z.
1
Powell 1991, p.136 no.57.
2
Bower 1999, p.100 no.54.
3
Ibid.
4
Ibid.
5
Ibid.
Technical notes:
The verso of the sheet is spotted with three pale blue circles, possibly of watercolour wash, forming a slight arc and extending from the centre of the right edge to the top centre.
Verso:
Stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram and ‘CCXXII–P’ at bottom left; inscribed in pencil ‘CCXXII–P’ bottom centre, ‘28a’ centre towards top and ‘3’ (inverted) top centre towards right.

Alice Rylance-Watson
September 2013

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