J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Ehrenbreitstein from the Rhine, Looking Downstream 1824

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 140 Recto:
Ehrenbreitstein from the Rhine, Looking Downstream 1824
Turner Bequest CCXVI 138
Pencil on white wove paper, 78 x 118 mm
Watermark ‘[smith &] allnut | [18]22’
Inscribed in blue ink by Ruskin ‘138’ top right
Stamped in black ‘CCXVI–138’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This is a detailed and carefully rendered study of the Festung, or fortress, of Ehrenbreitstein at Koblenz. Located on the east bank of the Rhine and built into a mountain of the same name, the citadel was constructed by the Prussians between 1817 and 1828.1 Turner shows the fortress here still in the process of being built. This formidable defence guarded the middle Rhine region against imminent French invasion, and, unsurprisingly given its vast and mighty proportions, Ehrenbreitstein was never attacked. In this drawing Turner provides the viewer with a sense of the sheer dominance and impenetrability of the building, constructed as it is into the natural tiers and platforms of the rock high above the water. Ehrenbreitstein made an impression on Turner and the Victorian travel writer Bartholomew Stritch alike, the latter writing that the citadel is ‘gigantic and almost “cloud capt”’ and renders Koblenz ‘an impregnable bulwark against any attempts of the French upon that part of the Prussian dominions’.2
Ehrenbreitstein was sketched, studied and painted by Turner over one hundred times. His earliest drawings are from 1817, and include: Tate D12802–D12806, D12809, D12894–D12908; Turner Bequest CLX 52a–54a, 56, CLXI 7–15 and other 1824 drawings of the citadel are: Tate D19785, D19818–D19821, D19827–D19828, D19830; Turner Bequest CCXVI 117a, 134–135a, 138a–139, 140. Later drawings from 1839 and colour studies can be found on: Tate D24804, D24809, D24833, D25307, D28302–D28303, D28351–D28356, D28444–D28447, D28529–D28536, D28603–D28609, D26613–D28614; Turner Bequest CCLIX 239, 244, 268, CCLXIII 185, CCLXXXIX 6a–7, CCXC 1–3a, 47a–49, 87a–91, CCXCI 34a–37a, 39a–40.

Alice Rylance-Watson
June 2014

‘Die Festung Ehrenbreitstein’, Rhineland Pfalz: Festung Ehrenbreitstein, accessed 12 June 2014, http://www.diefestungehrenbreitstein.de/index.php?id=inderfestung
Bartholomew Stritch, The Meuse, the Moselle, and the Rhine; or, A six weeks' tour through the finest river scenery in Europe, by B.S., London 1845, p.68.

How to cite

Alice Rylance-Watson, ‘Ehrenbreitstein from the Rhine, Looking Downstream 1824 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, June 2014, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, April 2015, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-ehrenbreitstein-from-the-rhine-looking-downstream-r1174617, accessed 18 October 2021.