- Museum number
Abbey near Coblenz; in the foreground, seated figure to left and trees, with further figures and river beyond, in the middle distance a building, and in the background a mountainous landscape. 1817
Watercolour on white paper prepared with a grey wash
- Production date
Height: 195 millimetres
Width: 313 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Sloan 1998
As with many of Turner's watercolours of the Rhine, the traditional title of this work has caused confusion concerning the exact spot depicted. Coming to the Rhine from Holland, Turner walked southward, or upstream, mainly staying on the west bank; however, most guidebooks to the Rhine describe the river from a boat travelling downstream (i.e. northwards), from Mainz towards Cologne. The pencil study for this view in Turner's 'Waterloo and Rhine' sketchbook (TB CLX 56v) was once thought to be inscribed "Abernath", which was interpreted as Andernach, a town some distance north of Coblenz. However, Cecilia Powell convincingly reread the inscription as "Oberwerth" and was thus able to identify the view as taken looking up the Rhine from the village of Pfaffendorf.¹ While staying in Coblenz, Turner crossed the river to study the great fortress of Ehrenbreitstein on its enormous rock overlooking the city at the confluence with the Moselle. The fort's monumental shape was to occupy many of Turner's compositions later in his career. Pfaffendorf was only a short walk away and had been particularly recommended by the Reverend John Gardnor, whose 1792 guide to the Rhine Turner had studied carefully.² Indeed, a later guidebook noted that "near Pfaffendorf is a stone bench, shaded by three poplars, whence there is a fine view of Coblenz and Ehrenbreitstein".³
When he sketched this view, however, Turner had already spent two days in Coblenz and, having finished his studies of the dark looming citadel on his right, he turned to look southwards towards the next stage of his journey. Rays of sunlight filtered through the trees onto the path and beyond it men towed a barge in the shallow waters of the river as it flowed past the island of Oberwoerth. The island's nunnery had been suppressed thirty years previously and its ruined arches can be glimpsed in Turner's watercolour through the lattice of poplar trees lining the bank. Upstream on the left, the river meanders around the edge of the island and the town of Oberlahnstein, its church spires clearly visible on the far bank of the Lahn river where it flows into the Rhine. Schloss Stolzenfels stands guard on its mountainous perch on the opposite bank, and the castle of Marxburg rises on a blue hill just visible in the far distance beyond the trunk of the poplar on the far left.
The misty tones and dappled sunlight in this view are much fresher than the deeper, darker tones found in most of the other Rhine views, and it is this 'plein-air' effect which has suggested to many writers on this series that they were painted by Turner on the spot or the same evening once he was back at his hotel.
1. Powell 1991, p. 197.
2. Ibid., p. 56 (n. 25).
3. Schreiber, p. 223.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1889, RA, no.57
1902, Lawrie & Co., no.20
1934, RA, no.900, (766, where incorrect provenance given)
1951, Agnew's, no.58
1959, 1960, BM
1966 Feb, BM, Turner Lloyd Bequest, no.9
1969 Feb, BM, Turner Lloyd Bequest, no.9
1975 BM, Turner in the BM, no.50
1985, BM, British Landscape Watercolours 1600-1860, no.89a
1998 May-Sept., BM, J.M.W.Turner: Lloyd Bequest, no.13
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- UNDER THE TERMS OF THE BEQUEST, NONE OF THE PRINTS OR DRAWINGS BEQUEATHED BY R. W. LLOYD MAY BE LENT OUTSIDE THE BRITISH MUSEUM (Registration Numbers 1958,0712.318 to 3149).
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number