Joseph Mallord William Turner

Views on the River Danube: Melk Abbey; the Ruins of Spielberg (Spilberg); ?Schloss Ottensheim; a Castle and Hills


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 198 × 127 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXCIX 25 a

Catalogue entry

There are four views here, drawn with the page turned vertically both ways. Three are identifiable as particular River Danube subjects as noted by Finberg1 and Cecilia Powell,2 and the fourth is likely another. The latter is at the bottom, inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, and was probably drawn first, as explained below. It shows a substantial castle keep, or perhaps a monastery, without prominent towers or turrets, among hills; there seems to be loose continuation a little way over the gutter to folio 26 recto opposite (D30050), where the corresponding part of the page includes two views of different castles on crags.
Also inverted in the bottom half, below the unidentified view and seemingly drawn next, is the most substantial sketch here, a view of the prominent church of Melk Abbey, on the river about fifty miles due west of Vienna. From the south-west, its Baroque dome and twin spires are indicated, with a roughly hatched grid giving a sense of articulation and the banded stonework of the wall round its west courtyard, on an outcrop overlooking the waterfront of the town below. See also the 1833 Salzburg and Danube sketchbook (Tate D30270–D30272, D30274; Turner Bequest CCC 72–73, 74), and the Vienna up to Venice book of that year (D31461), including some relatively detailed views; Powell has observed that in 1840 ‘highly scenic spots such as Melk or Linz [see folio 26 recto opposite; D30051] were jotted down only once or twice and in a careless fashion.’3
On Turner’s voyage west up the Danube on this occasion, Melk would have been encountered well before the subjects noted the other way up. At the top is the ruined castle of Spielberg (Spilberg), on the north bank near Mauthausen, east of Linz; see under folio 24 verso (D30048) for other views. Below is a view of a distant building with a tower, marked by Turner as ‘B Otten[?haus]’, which Finberg interpreted as ‘“Ottenheim” (Ottensheim, on the Danube, near Linz)’,4 although Powell listed it as a second Spielberg view.5 Schloss Ottensheim is on the north bank a few miles further upstream, north-west of Linz, and there are clearer views of what seems to be the same building on folio 27 recto (D30053).

Matthew Imms
September 2018

See Finberg 1909, II, p.968, and Powell 1995, p.241.
See Powell 1995, p.241.
Ibid., p.68; see also p.81 note 32.
Finberg 1909, II, p.968.
See Powell 1995, p.241.

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