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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Regensburg and the River Danube from the Steinerne Brücke 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Regensburg and the River Danube from the Steinerne Brücke 1840
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 293
Pencil, watercolour, gouache and ink on grey wove paper, 194 x 283 mm
Watermark ‘E & S | 829’
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCLXIV – 293’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The medieval city of Regensburg in southern Germany is shown to the south across the River Danube, looking along the long and busy Steinerne Brücke, as Cecilia Powell recognised, describing the scene as ‘from the northern end of the bridge over the Danube in the very early morning when the sun has caught the tops of the buildings but not yet illuminated anything below roof level’:
On the left are the west towers of Regensburg cathedral (the open-work caps crowning them today were not built until 1859–69), the massive Salzstadel (salt barn) and – at the end of the bridge itself – the tall Brückturm or bridge tower. To its right Turner shows many further towers of the city, above an array of old houses and numerous boats. These include the Goliath House, the Golden Tower and the town hall. Despite the early hour, many people are already on the move on the bridge, going about their daily tasks.1
The vehicle in the foreground appears to be ox-drawn. Maurice Davies used the composition as an example in his study of Turner’s use of perspective, as a variation on the traditional vanishing point: ‘The perspective centre can be placed to one side of the picture, implying the artist was not at the centre of the picture when it was produced’.2 He also observed: ‘Sometimes Turner used central perspective to focus the composition in a single direction, but on other occasions he provided other “routes” for the eye to follow’, as here.3
Turner made numerous pencil drawings around Regensburg in the contemporary Venice, Passau to Würzburg book; see under Tate D31311 (Turner Bequest CCCX 18a). Compare in particular views over the river on D31351, D31359, D31361, D31363, D31365 (CCCX 38a, 42a, 43a, 44a, 45a).
As discussed in the technical notes, the present study is one of seven of Regensburg and the nearby Walhalla at Donaustauf (see also Tate D32185, D34081, D34084–D34085, D34093, D36153; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 6, CCCXLI 360, 363, 364, 371, CCCLXIV 296) which were initially eighths of a single sheet; D36151 (CCCLXIV 294) is a closely related view on similar paper, from east of the bridge, tinted to suggest an evening effect. Powell has described their ‘sombre colours, sometimes articulated by dark penwork. The gravity ... exactly reflects the prevailing mood of Regensburg itself’,4 albeit Turner subsequently introduced a typically radiant effect to a watercolour on white paper from a nearby viewpoint, identified by Ian Warrell as ‘Regensburg from the Danube, with the Cathedral and Stone Bridge, at Sunset’5 (traditionally ‘Lyons’; Victoria and Albert Museum, London);6 see the Introduction to this subsection for other Regensburg watercolours.
Finberg had tentatively modified the present work’s slightly whimsical nineteenth-century title (‘Seaside Fort, with Towers’)7 in his 1909 Inventory: ‘Perhaps in North Italy, near Venice’.8 In 1974 Andrew Wilton plausibly but incorrectly identified the subject as the Rhine city of Mainz, which Turner did not draw on the 1840 tour, although he likely passed that way as he returned homewards down the river (compare the 1834 vignette engraving for Walter Scott’s Life of Napoleon; Tate impressions: T04740, T04975). Wilton did however make a technical link between this composition and several others ‘on the Rhine and at Botzen’ (Tate D36149–D36158; Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 292–301) and Venice views of 1840 on similar grey paper,9 and most of those subjects have since been precisely identified and confirmed as from this tour (see also the technical notes below).
See Powell 1995, p.165.
Davies 1992, p.64.
Ibid., p.65.
Powell 1995, p.70.
See Ian Warrell, ‘Turner in Regensburg, 1840: Conflagration and Catholicism’, Turner Society News, no.123, Spring 2015, p.6.
As given (albeit with discussion of other possibilities) in Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.487 no.1555, pl.256
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.626.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1198.
See Wilton 1974, pp.154, 157, 160; see also Stainton 1981, p.142, Wilton 1982, p.58, and Powell 1995, pp.81 note 2, 166, 169.
Technical notes:
Andrew Wilton noted the ‘free calligraphic use of a pen dipped in colour ... was to become an increasingly conspicuous feature of the Continental drawings of the 1840s’.1 Cecilia Powell observed that the ‘colouring, style and technique ... have much in common with those of Turner’s grey paper drawings of Venice of a fortnight or so earlier: the juxtaposition of different blues, purples and muted reds and the use of vigorous penwork in a variety of inks for foreground details is especially noteworthy’, mentioning Tate D32213 and D32214 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 28, 29) for comparison.2
Among many such works on the blue or grey papers customarily used by Turner, this is one of seven originally from a single piece (subsequently scattered through Finberg’s 1909 Inventory, as listed above) to be identified by Powell as showing subjects in and around Regensburg.3 They are from an 1829 sheet of the grey Bally, Ellen and Steart paper used often in 1840 (see the Introduction to the overall tour),4 and were temporarily reassembled for paper conservator Peter Bower’s 1999 Turner’s Later Papers exhibition, showing that their slightly irregular edges match exactly.5 This section includes part of the watermark; for the other half, see Tate D34085 (CCCXLI 364).6
Four subjects were drawn on one side, and three on the other, only one face of each eighth being used, with a last section unaccounted for. Bower has noted Turner’s habit of tearing such sheets, sometimes in advance or sometimes after making a sequence of sketches, unfolding and refolding the intact sheet as necessary.7 The delicate white chalk highlights on several, and the lively gouache and watercolour on three (noted in individual entries), was likely added once the sheets were separated, as suggested particularly by the colour having been freely worked up to the torn edges, with no sign of overlapping brushwork or adventitious splashes across originally neighbouring areas.
Wilton 1982, p.58.
Powell 1995, p.166.
See ibid., pp.165, 167–8.
See also ibid., p.145.
See Bower 1999, pp.105, 107 no.59, with one side of the overall arrangement reproduced in colour p.69, the other in black and white p.106.
As noted in Powell 1995, p.165.
Bower 1999, pp.105, 107.
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘26’ centre, descending vertically; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram bottom right.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Regensburg and the River Danube from the Steinerne Brücke 1840 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, September 2018, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2019, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-regensburg-and-the-river-danube-from-the-steinerne-brucke-r1197088, accessed 24 January 2021.