This sketch depicts the village of Ürzig on the left and the Michaelslei, a rocky outcrop on one of the surrounding hillsides. The Irish author and traveller Michael Joseph Quin describes it as an attractive destination for tourists, writing:
in the face of a high red cliff called Michaelsley, may be a castellated wall. This wall covers the mouth of a cavern, which was occupied in the olden time by a band of robbers, each of whom, however, claimed to be of some order of knighthood: it was in a later age the residence of a pious hermit.1
Accessible ‘only by means of a succession of ladders’, it is no surprise, then, that Turner only captured it from afar from his boat.
Turner’s handling here is fluid and immediate, especially in his rendering of the crags and fissures of the mountains. He has applied chalk in swift, rough hatches to show the fall of light on the land and water.
Michael Joseph Quin, Steam voyages on the Seine, the Moselle, & the Rhine: with railroad visits to the principal cities of Belgium, London 1843, p.51.