Joseph Mallord William Turner

Würzburg by Moonlight, ?from the West Bank of the River Main


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 104 × 170 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCIII 72 a

Catalogue entry

Made with the page turned horizontally, this rather incoherent sketch was perhaps made on the artist’s return from the perambulation around the countryside north of Würzburg recorded on adjacent pages, when he had observed the setting sun (see folio 75 recto; D30602; Turner Bequest CCCIII 74).
Here there appears to be a corresponding indication, if not two, of the newly waxing moon rising over the domes and spires of the city. Turner’s was recorded there on 23 September 1840 (see the sketchbook’s Introduction), but the crescent would only have appeared between the dark phase of 25 September and the first quarter on 3 October,1 suggesting that he lingered a few days. Compare the tiny reversed ‘C’ over the waterfront in the previous month’s Venice and Botzen sketchbook (Tate D31890; Turner Bequest CCCXIII 51).
On the right are the jagged forms of the ramparts and bastions rising to the towers of the Marienberg fortress on the west bank of the River Main, which Cecilia Powell took to be the viewpoint,2 although the two halves of the page may not form a conventional single view, but an amalgam of aspects caught in the failing light. At the bottom right there seems to be the outline of a dome at right-angles to the main view(s). Powell tentatively read the scrawled inscription as ‘One C and F across Water’, with the ‘F’ perhaps standing for ‘ferry’.3
For the extensive sequence of Würzburg views in this sketchbook and others elsewhere, see under folio 72 verso (D30596; CCCIII 71).

Matthew Imms
September 2018

See ‘Moon Phases for Venice, Italy’,, accessed 6 September 2018,
See Powell 1995, p.245.

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