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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Ruined Towers on a Hill: ?Rhineland Fortress c.1841-2

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Ruined Towers on a Hill: ?Rhineland Fortress c.1841–2
Pencil on paper, 291 x 227 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
These quick pencil sketches were made on the inside cover of a sketchbook; the other sheets in this section, some of which relate to the life of Napoleon, were found contained within the sketchbook cover. For further information, see the Introduction to this section.
The rough pencil sketches seen here resemble several of the many fortifications on hills that Turner sketched during his continental tours. They are, perhaps, particularly suggestive of the ruined fortresses above the Rhine, many of which were destroyed by Napoleon’s forces and later reconstructed; this may be worth noting given the five studies apparently showing Coblenz and the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein found within this sketchbook cover (see the Introduction to this section), although the view seen here is not directly related to those.
Possible subjects are numerous, but the sketches appear particularly comparable to those of 1839 and 1840 showing the ‘castled crag of Drachenfels’, which had been immortalised by Byron in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (Tate D28615, D30501, D30504; Turner Bequest CCXI 40 a, CCCIII 22 a, CCCIII 24). This ruined castle was also associated with Napoleon: when the French annexed the Rhineland and took the convent on the island below the crag, Napoleon’s wife Josephine intervened on behalf of its residents, who were subsequently given leave to remain as occupants for the rest of their lives.1 Turner’s sketches of the Oberburg and Niederburg, built into the cliffs around Kobern, are also somewhat similar: Turner made drawings of these structures in 1839, having also sketched the area previously. See, for example, Tate D19814 (Turner Bequest CCXVI 132), Tate D28300 (Turner Bequest CCLXXXIX 5 a), Tate D28589 (Turner Bequest CCXI 27 a) and Tate D28301 (Turner Bequest CCLXXXIX 6).
Cecilia Powell, Turner’s Rivers of Europe: the Rhine, Meuse and Mosel, London, 1991, p.100.
Technical notes:
There are traces of blue watercolour in the lower centre.

Elizabeth Jacklin
September 2018

How to cite

Elizabeth Jacklin, ‘Ruined Towers on a Hill: ?Rhineland Fortress c.1841–2 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, November 2019, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-ruined-towers-on-a-hill-rhineland-fortress-r1195843, accessed 17 July 2024.