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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Spitalgasse, Coburg, from the Weisser Schwan Hotel 1840

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Spitalgasse, Coburg, from the Weisser Schwan Hotel 1840
D32186
Turner Bequest CCCXVII 7
Pencil, watercolour and gouache on grey wove paper, 190 x 280 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCCXVII – 7’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner was in Coburg, then capital of the German Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, between 17 and 20 September 1840, and made many drawings of the town and its surroundings in the Venice; Passau to Würzburg sketchbook; see under Tate D31278 (Turner Bequest CCCX 1a). Cecilia Powell identified the present colour study, comparing it with one of the small pencil sketches on D31278 and describing the scene:
Both show the view from an upper window of Turner’s hotel in Coburg, the Weisser Schwan in Spitalgasse which runs north from the market place. The largest house shown in Spitalgasse (on the extreme left) is the very ornate Lucchesehause with a curved pedimental roofline and giant figures supporting its entrance porch. Above the gabled houses further to the right looms the dark spire of St Moriz’s church which Turner could have seen only from an upstairs window in the hotel. The view terminates in the town hall on the south side of the market square, a building with a large pitched roof and central turret ...1
The latter features also appear in Tate D32187 (Turner Bequest CCCXVII 8), a similar colour study of the market place.2 Powell continued: ‘the foreground ... is alive with bustle and activity. Passengers are obviously arriving or departing by carriage in front of the hotel itself, while their horse thankfully accepts a nosebag from the coachman.’ This is one of four grey paper views around Coburg, which can all be related to Venice; Passau to Würzburg pencil sketches (see also Tate D32188 and D32190; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 9, 11); there are additionally three loose watercolours on conventional white sheets (D35889, D35948, D36187; CCCLXIV 49, 105, 329).3
Originally described as simply showing ‘A market place’,4 this sheet had nevertheless been included in the ‘Venice: Miscellaneous. (b) Grey Paper’ section of Finberg’s 1909 Inventory, albeit among a handful (Tate D32185–D32191; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 6–12) of which he noted ‘some – probably all ... are not Venetian subjects’, but likely ‘done at the same time, and may therefore help to throw light on Turner’s movements.’5 He later tentatively annotated his entry: ‘? Innsbruck’;6 and in 1930 he noted that ‘some ... may have been made in the Tyrol on the way to or from Venice’.7 Other than D32189, a view of Bolzano (Bozen) from the outward leg, and D32191, which may show the Venetian Lagoon, they have all since been identified as German subjects from 1840’s return journey, and are included in this subsection (see also the technical notes).
1
Powell 1995, p.169.
2
See ibid.
3
See also Powell 2001, p.50.
4
Finberg 1909, II, p.1022.
5
Ibid.
6
Undated MS note by Finberg (died 1939) in interleaved copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.1022.
7
Finberg 1930, p.175.
Technical notes:
Cecilia Powell has observed that this composition ‘can best be studied from close to and from slightly to its right so that a raking light reveals its fine tonal details which are largely shown in the palest gouache washes.’1 Pencil was used for the figures, coach and horse at the left, seemingly observed directly, with only one or two other strokes. The depiction of the crowd and vehicles lapses into a swirling silhouette of grey wash towards the right.
Among many such works on the blue or grey papers customarily used by Turner, this is one of five originally from a single piece (Tate D32186–D32188, D32190, D36158; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 7–9, 11; CCCLXIV 301) to be identified by Cecilia Powell as showing Coburg and Würzburg subjects.2 They are neatly torn eighths of a sheet of grey Bally, Ellen and Steart paper, likely made in 18293 (albeit none of these sections bears a watermark), of the type often used in 1840 (see the Introduction to the overall tour).4
Noting Finberg’s provisional mingling of then unidentified German views with Venice subjects in the 1909 Inventory, as discussed above, Powell concurred that ‘there are, indeed, strong resemblances of both palette and expression between the four Coburg [and single Würzburg] drawings and the much larger Venetian group’, and suggested that the other three eights of the sheet had likely been used in Venice,5 although this possibility was not addressed specifically in Ian Warrell’s subsequent checklist of the Bally, Ellen and Steart sheets Turner used there.6
1
Powell 1995, p.169.
2
See ibid.
3
See ibid., p.145.
4
See also Peter Bower, Turner’s Later Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1820–1851, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, pp.105, 107, for discussion of another such group, comprising seven Regensburg and Walhalla views included in the present subsection.
5
Powell 1995, p.168; see also p.81 note 2.
6
See Ian Warrell, ‘Appendix: The papers used for Turner’s Venetian Watercolours’ (1840, section 11) in Warrell, David Laven, Jan Morris and others, Turner and Venice, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2003, pp.258 (under 1833), 259 section 8.
Verso:
Blank; inscribed in pencil ‘CCCXVII.7’ bottom right; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over ‘CCCXVII – 7’ bottom right.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Spitalgasse, Coburg, from the Weisser Schwan Hotel 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-the-spitalgasse-coburg-from-the-weisser-schwan-hotel-r1197075, accessed 22 October 2021.