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Work View of the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Department of Prints and Drawings: 19th century

Vue du château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye

RMN-Grand Palais - Photo M. Urtado

Prints and Drawings
19th century

Grollemund Hélène

This delightfully fresh watercolor once belonged to Hugh A. J. Munro of Novar, one of Turner's executors and keenest admirers. It is one of the seventeen watercolors printed in the annual magazine The Keepsake, which was very popular in England in the 19th century. Turner contributed to the magazine between 1828 and 1839. It was the first of his drawings to be purchased by the Louvre, in 1976.

Turner and France

Turner went to France several times after 1802. On each occasion he made short excursions, which gave him an opportunity to note his impressions in his sketchbooks. These studies gave rise to very few oil paintings; however, they were used for more finished drawings suitable for publication. This is the case with View of the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which was engraved by Robert Wallis for the 1832 edition of the annual The Keepsake.

The Annuals

The public discovered landscapes around the Seine in the elegant album The Keepsake, which Charles Heath (1785-1848) published in November or December each year beginning in 1827. Turner prepared watercolors for this publication as finished works intended for public display, which could be exhibited and sold to publicize the new edition of the annual. All the French subjects in The Keepsake come from ideas noted for the first time in pen and ink on small blue paper sheets. The studies for View of the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye are in the notebook titled Paris and Its Surrounds (London, Tate Gallery). He used these notes to make a more elaborate drawing (London, Tate Gallery), which is smaller than the watercolor but shows the main features of the finished work.

A panoramic view

The Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, a royal abode linked to English history because the Stuart king James II died there, was in a pitiful state in the 1820s; only the terraces above the Seine still attracted visitors. For this view, Turner positioned himself opposite the castle, near the river, accentuating the figures sitting on the river bank and on the scaffolding on the bridge over the Seine. In the foreground, a woman is looking at what seems to be a painting, no doubt an allusion to the castle's former splendor. Executed at a time of intense creative activity, the watercolor is appealing in its flowing strokes and beautiful colors, dominated by reds, ochre, and yellows. Bathed in light, this recollection of a journey heralds the boldness of Turner's evanescent, lyrical later landscapes. A color study (London, Tate Gallery) in which the structure of the composition is obtained solely by the use of plum and pink tones has been linked to this work.


Joll E., J.M.W. Turner, Exposition Paris, Grand Palais, 1983-1984, n 188.
Sérullaz A., Nouvelles acquisitions du Cabinet des Dessins, 1973-1983, Exposition Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1984, n 153.
Sérullaz A., D'Outre-Manche : L'Art britannique dans les collections publiques françaises, Exposition Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1994, n 183.
Shanes E., Turner's Watercolour Explorations 1810-1842, Exposition Londres, Southampton, 1997, n 22-24.
Warrell I., Turner et la Seine, Exposition Londres, Paris, Le Havre, 1999-2000, p.65-66, 206-213, n 46-47.

Technical description

  • Joseph Mallord William Turner (London, 1775-1851)

    View of the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye

    C. 1830

  • Watercolor on paper

    H. 29.6 cm; W. 46.2 cm

  • Sale of H. A. J. Munro of Novar collection, London, Christie's, 2 June 1877, no. 36; sale of J. A. Baumbach collection, London, Christie's, 23 June 1900, no. 34; sale of Barnet-Lewis collection, London, Christie's, 28 February 1930, no. 51; purchased by Agnew's, London; G. Bushby of Sibbersfield Hall collection; purchased by Richard Green, Agnew's and Colnaghi, London, 1974; purchase by the Louvre, 1976

    RF 36057

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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