Lot 141
  • 141

Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A.

50,000 - 70,000 GBP
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  • Joseph Mallord William Turner, R.A.
  • Study of a Castle by a Lake - recto Study of a Castle and Buildings on a River - verso
  • watercolour on paper - recto
    pencil on paper - verso
  • 15.9 by 23.4cm.; 6 1/2 by 9 1/4 in.
  • Executed circa 1824.


Davis & Long, New York
Private Collection, United States (sale: Sotheby's, London, 12th June 2003, lot 19)
Purchased at the above sale by the late owner


New York, Davis & Long, English Watercolours, 1980
Vienna, Albertina Museum, Goya bis Picasso. Meisterwerke der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krgier-Poniatowski, 2005, no. 32
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Das Ewige Auge - Von Rembrandt bis Picasso. Meisterwerke der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2007, no. 72, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Recto: Overall the colours in this work has survived well. The paper has yellowed very slightly with time. There are a very small number of foxmarks - however these can only be seen on very close inspection. There is also evidence of minor surface dirt - again this can only be seen on close inspection. Verso: The pencil has remained strong. The paper has darkened slightly and there is evidence of where the work has been attached to the mount.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The present watercolour is an exploration of light and colour. The subtle washes of blues and yellows suggest the form of a castle on a cliff above a river, but the actual topography remains elusive. Full of spontaneity and energy, the immediacy of this work indicates that it was made from nature.

The watercolour has been dated to circa 1824 and relates to the studies of rocky mountain scenery that Turner made on his first sketching-tour of the Meuse and Mosel in Germany. During this trip he explored the Meuse valley ‘between Liege in Belgium and Verdun in France, and that of the Rhine’s most important tributary, the Mosel, on its final and most celebrated section between Trier and Coblenz’ (C. Powell, Turner in Germany, London 1995, p. 30). He used four sketchbooks to record this tour and many of the drawings can be closely compared to the pencil sketch on the reverse of the present work.

This drawing depicts a fort and other buildings perched on a rocky cliff. The letter ‘m’ is inscribed above the castle on the left suggesting the first initial of the place name. Although the exact location is not known it is most likely a scene on the Meuse and not the Mosel. Turner’s drawings of picturesque towns and villages in his Rivers Meuse to Mosel Sketchbook (Tate Britain, TB. CCXVI) are executed in a similarly rapid and loose style and many of the sheets include continuations and extra details, sometimes circled like the fort on the far left of the present work.

During the 1820s Turner became increasingly interested in optics and colour theory. His new found understanding of colour was most probably inspired by his trip to Italy in 1819-20. There, the light had the effect of liberating his palette enabling him to achieve a finer luminosity in watercolour. He increasingly favoured the practice of drawing loose preparatory sketches and pure studies in colour. These studies were rapidly executed and much was left to chance. Thin translucent layers of colour would be applied to wet paper and once this had dried further washes would often be added. This technique enabled Turner to preserve the purity and luminosity of his work, and to paint at a prodigiously rapid rate.