Joseph Mallord William Turner

Diagram and Notes Relating to Perspective, from Daniele Barbaro


View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Pen and ink on paper
Support: 88 x 115 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CVIII 5

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following notes, above, to the right of and below a diagram of a pivoting device drawn at the centre left:
the second | an instrument invented by Iacomo Castriotto
Baldessera Lanci | invented an instrument | for the carry [‘porre’ inserted below] in Perpiv | This instrument in [?quantity] was | a charming invention it gave | the habit and form fatto maggiore | con piu avvertimenti i quali | Lascio All’inuentore
related by Barbaro, 1678 [sic] | who treatise seem to be merely to shew his dexterity of | speriod rumboid [sic] and figures of no service as radiated crowns
Maurice Davies identifies these notes as taken from Daniele Barbaro, La Practica della Perspettiva, Venice 1568, pages 192–4.1 Turner presumably consulted the copy bound with other perspective treatises at the British Museum (since transferred to the British Library, London; see the sketchbook Introduction). There is a diagram from the same source on folio 49 verso (D07440).
The first lines are taken from the heading of page 194, the last section of the main text: ‘Come con un nuouo instrumento si possino sapere le quantitatà delle scarpe delle muraglie, secundo la inuentione de Iacomo Castriottio’. It relates to the device sketched below, which is explained at length in Barbaro’s text and illustrated in a full-page engraving on page 195. Turner makes no further notes on it and his sketch is rather perfunctory, though it includes the main elements of a case with a plumb line hanging in front, with a section pivoting from the bottom right marked with radiating lines and a scale. He has omitted a carved coat of arms, scrolls and what appears to be a carrying ring from the top of the case.
The central paragraph comes from two passages on page 192: ‘Baldessara Lanci ingenioso ingegneri essendo io in Siena, mi mostro uno instrumento ritrovato da lui da porre in Perspettiva’; and ‘Questo instumento alla inventione é bello, ma quanto all’uso ha bisogno di essere meglio formato, & fatto maggiore, & con pui avvertimenti, i quali lascio all’inventore, che mi disse di volerlo rifformare’ (When I was in Siena, the ingenious engineer Baldessara Lanci showed be an instrument he had invented to place [things] in perspective. ... This instrument is fine as an invention, but to be useful it needs to be better made, and bigger, and with more instructions, which I leave to the inventor, as he tells me he wants to redevelop it). Turner has omitted a lengthy description of the instrument itself. The whole of the relevant text has been transcribed and translated by Kim H. Veltman.2

Matthew Imms
June 2008

Davies 1994, p.287.
Kim H. Veltman, ‘Perspective, Anamorphosis and Vision’, Marburger Jahrbuch für Kunstwissenschaft, vol.21, [1986], p.115 note 45; also as a PDF version on Maastricht McLuhan Institute (MMI) website, accessed 28 March 2008,,%20Anamorphosis%20and%20Vision.pdf.

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