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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Moselle (or Rhine) Sketchbook 1824

CCXIX 1–45
Roll sketchbook bound in soft red leather, with plain-woven fabric flap lined with thick, rough blue paper and remains of a green fabric pencil holder or fastening attached to the back cover.
Inscribed in black ink ‘29’ on fabric flap towards top left
Signed and inscribed by Henry Scott Trimmer in black ink ‘No 135’ and signed in ink by Charles Turner beneath on inside front cover
Signed in pencil by Charles Locke Eastlake ‘C.L.E.’ and John Prescott Knight ‘JPK’ on inside front cover
Stamped in back ‘CCXIX’ on front cover top right and inside front cover paste-down top left
Inscribed in pencil ‘CCXIX’ at top centre of inside front cover pastedown.
45 leaves of off-white wove paper, rectos prepared with grey watercolour wash
Watermarked ‘j. whatman | turkey mills | 1824’
Approximate size of page 160 x 235 mm

Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The Moselle (or Rhine) is one of the four sketchbooks used by Turner on his 1824 tour of the Meuse-Moselle (or Mosel, as it is known in Germany) and middle Rhine regions. It is among the earliest examples of a ‘roll’ sketchbook employed by the artist on his journeys to the Continent.1 The book is bound in soft red leather, with no hard boards. It thus is flexible, easy to transport, and would have been rolled up and stowed in Turner’s pocket when the artist was on the move. The paper, white wove, is of J. Whatman manufacture and is watermarked ‘j. whatman | turkey mills | 1824’.
Turner prepared the recto of each page of this sketchbook with a layer of translucent grey wash, as he had done with the Trèves and Rhine roll sketchbook taken on the same tour. As Cecilia Powell writes, the fact that the wash has transferred onto the facing pages indicates that the artist tinted the sheets himself after purchasing the book.2
All of the sketches are drawn on these grey pages, with the exception of a few written notes. Turner used pencil to render all of the landscapes, with the addition of chalk, scratching out and blotting out to achieve highlights. The viewer will notice that some of the grey wash is light in tone, enabling a clear impression of the landscape to emerge; others, by contrast, are prepared with such dark grey wash that the silvery pencil-drawn view is almost entirely obscured.
The sketches record towns on the Moselle in Germany, located between Bernkastel-Kues and Beilstein. Almost all of the communities depicted are overlooked by the vestiges of medieval castles, looming in the distance in picturesque ruination. The sister towns of Trarben and Trarbach is one such example, dominated by the remains of the ancient Grevenburg; another is Bernkastel with its Burg Landshut. Other landmarks depicted include a hermitage built into the sheerest cliff opposite the village of Ürzig and the hollowed remnants of the Kloster Stuben, a nunnery at Bremm. A number of drawings feature no town or village, but simply show the meandering trajectory of the Moselle as it carves through soaring slate cliffs and vine-clad hills.
The landscape drawings in this sketchbook were removed by John Ruskin in the nineteenth century. They were found by Finberg loose, ‘unnumbered and in confusion in a parcel, endorsed by Mr. Ruskin – “31. Pencil on gray with chalk. (On Rhine)...Fine, though slight...”’. These pages were subsequently reordered by Finberg and later bound into the front of the book. The other half of the sketchbook was left untouched by Turner and thus the sheets have remained bound in the original foliation. The current foliation and the leaves’ individual Tate and Turner Bequest numbers is listed in full in the Table of Concordance below.
Warrell 1991, p.49 no.44.
Powell 1991, p.125 no.40.

Alice Rylance-Watson
November 2013

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How to cite

Alice Rylance-Watson, ‘Moselle (or Rhine) Sketchbook 1824’, sketchbook, November 2013, 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/moselle-or-rhine-sketchbook-r1174901, accessed 25 June 2022.