Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of Rhine downstream to Coblenz and Ehrenbreitstein, with Twin Spires of St Castor’s Church, Coblenz, the Bridge of Boats and a Timber Raft


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 218 × 295 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 32

Catalogue entry

This is one of thirteen loose sheets found grouped together, a number of which are believed to be ideas for compositions relating to the life of Napoleon; for more information see the Introduction to this section.
This loose colour study has been identified as a view of the Rhine, with Coblenz seen on the left and the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein on the right. The Bridge of Boats (as Turner had seen in 1817) or bridge of pontoons (which replaced it in 18191) is visible in the foreground, and details including the twin spires of St Castor’s Church have also been identified. For a list of other studies of Coblenz in this section see the entry for D27544 (Turner Bequest CCLXXX 27), which presents a similar viewpoint. It is likely that Turner was aware of various associations between these locations and Napoleon, which is also discussed within the entry for D27544.
This sheet is notable for the inscriptions Turner added in pencil, which appear to relate to the drawing’s subject matter; unfortunately, they are difficult to transcribe with any certainty. The connection with Napoleon (if indeed ‘N’ is accepted as meaning Napoleon), appears confirmed by a clear ‘– N’, while there are also possible references to ‘second Franco rafts’ and ‘the curse of’ either ‘Z’ or ‘N’, as well as words that perhaps read ‘before the storm’. The wooden structure in the foreground is suggestive of a raft.
Cecilia Powell, Turner in Germany, London 1995, p.12
Blank, save for a grey thumb print in the lower left, and inscriptions: inscribed in black ink ‘Walman[?] 1828’ (possibly describing a watermark: a watermark on this sheet has been identified by the present cataloguer as an 1825 Whatman mark) upper right; inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXXX 32’ lower right.

Elizabeth Jacklin
September 2018

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