Joseph Mallord William Turner

Veste Coburg and Coburg across the Itz Valley from Schloss Ernsthöhe (later Hohenfels)

c.1840

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 233 × 326 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D36187
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 329

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 has identified the present subject as a view from the valley of the River Itz, based on one of several small sketches on Tate D31319 (Turner Bequest CCCX 22a), with the newly built Schloss Ernsthöhe (later Hohenfels) just north-west of the town, ‘clearly seen on its hill to the right, its flagpole arising from the dark block representing the main part of the palace’1 (since been hemmed in by thick trees above the largely developed valley). It is counterbalanced by the distant outline of the medieval Veste Coburg fortress high to the east of the town, perfunctorily indicated by the spire of St Moriz’s Church on the pale blue horizon.
This is one of three loose watercolours on conventional white sheets of the Coburg area (see also Tate D35889 and D35948; Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 49, 105); there are additionally four colour studies on grey paper (D32186, D32187, D32188 and D32190; CCCXVII 7, 8, 9, 11).2 D35948 (a variant with a more open aspect on the right) and this sheet are inscribed on their backs ‘10C’ and ‘11C’ respectively, leading Powell to speculate that Turner ‘may have contemplated a whole series of Coburg subjects, possibly to be engraved in a book on that town’ to capitalise on interest in its topical royal connections following Queen Victoria’s 1840 marriage to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.3 Here, Powell has noted that ‘the blue in the foreground is an indication of the river Itz ... and blue is the keynote of the entire work, giving it a mysterious beauty very different from the freshness’ of D35948.4
1
Powell 1995, p.173.
2
See also Powell 2001, p.50.
3
Powell 1995, p.174; see also p.72.
4
Ibid., p.174.
Technical notes:
There is no underlying pencil work, with the composition being developed directly with loose but controlled washes and strokes of fresh colour, including unusually vibrant greens as well as strong blue, as discussed above.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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