Joseph Mallord William Turner

Views of Burg Rolandseck, Nonnenwerth and the Drachenfels on the River Rhine


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 137 × 192 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCXLI 202

Catalogue entry

There are three similar views here, one above the other in horizontal bands with the middle one inverted, as well as what appears to be a reprise and continuation of the skyline of the upper one towards the top right. Incorporating his reading of Turner’s brief note, Finberg confidently gave the subject as ‘“Oberwesel,” with the Caub and Pfalz in distance’.1
The sheet was among those listed in broad terms by Cecilia Powell, as quoted in the technical notes below, in relation to a group of thirteen similar drawings mostly made along rural parts of the River Rhine. The others fall within a stretch of twenty-five miles or so from Bonn southwards, whereas Finberg’s suggestion would place these views in isolation roughly fifty miles further on. However, Turner’s note actually appears to read something like ‘Non’ or ‘Nun W...’. Rather than the reach between Oberwesel, the Schönburg, the distinctively domed island Pfalz castle (Burg Pfalzgrafenstein), Kaub and Burg Gutenfels (as shown in a sequence in the 1840 Würzburg, Rhine and Ostend sketchbook; Tate D30558–D30567; Turner Bequest CCCXIII 51–55a), the subjects of the close variations here are the ruins of Burg Rolandseck on the west bank, the former nunnery on Nonnenwerth island, and the Drachenfels topped by the ruins of Burg Drachenfels opposite, looking north down the river. Compare another sequence in the Würzburg, Rhine and Ostend book (D30505–D30510; CCCIII 24a–27), which Turner used on his return journey.
The wave-like continuation conveys the undulating peaks of the Siebengebirge (‘seven hills’) range east of the river; compare for example Tate D12863 (Turner Bequest CLX 83) in the 1817 Waterloo and Rhine sketchbook. For numerous Rolandseck, Nonnenwerth and Drachenfels sketches and watercolours from 1817 onwards, see under Tate D30500 and D30505 (Turner Bequest CCCIII 22, 24a) in the Würzburg, Rhine and Ostend book.
Among the related 1840 Rhine sheets mentioned above, D33911 (Turner Bequest CCCXLI 206) shows further variations on the present views, while D33901, D33902 and D33912 (CCCXLI 196, 197, 207) focus on the Drachenfels, and D33908 (CCCXLI 203) shows Rolandseck from the other direction. For the likely sequence of the Rhine subjects in this grouping and the wider context of the tour, see the Introduction to this subsection. The other side of this sheet, D33903 (Turner Bequest CCCXLI 198), is blank.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1073.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

Powell 1995, pp.150–1; see also Karl Heinz Stader, William Turner und der Rhein, Bonn 1981, p.43.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1073.
See also Powell 1995, p.145.

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like