Joseph Mallord William Turner Inscription by Turner: Notes on the History of Perspective c.1808–11

Artwork details

Inscription by Turner: Notes on the History of Perspective
From Windmill and Lock Sketchbook
Turner Bequest CXIV
Date c.1808–11
Medium Graphite on paper
Dimensions Support: 87 x 117 mm
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXIV 65 a
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Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following notes:
<[?Angarth]> Agatharchus Eschylus | Vitruvius mentions some authors | who wrote upon the art of [...] by Geo & hence | the places of objects in a Picture
After <Sallius> Sallus [...] his | opinion that [?Persp] was not absolutely [...] | by a Passage from Platos Sophista & | diminution ... Graduation was ... | ancient ... ... Mich Angelo ... | ... of the Trajan Col [?quote] Lomazzo P29 & 247
Finberg does not transcribe any of the above, while Diane Perkins noted only the reference to Trajan’s Column.1 The Roman Emperor Trajan is also mentioned on folio 9 verso (D07972). Nor are these notes mentioned by Maurice Davies, who lists others in this sketchbook2 in relation to Turner’s Royal Academy perspective lectures, first delivered in 1811 (see the Introduction to the sketchbook).
The ancient Greek painter Agatharcus was said by the Roman architect Vitruvius to have painted scenery in perspective for a play by Aeschylus, as discussed in the entry on Turner’s notes mentioning them in the contemporary Perspective sketchbook (Tate D07424; Turner Bequest CVIII 41a). Agatharcus is also mentioned in notes in the Lowther sketchbook (Tate D07926; Turner Bequest CXIII 48a) and in the Greenwich sketchbook (Tate D06728; Turner Bequest CII 4a). All are roughly contemporary with the present book. As set out in its Introduction, the Perspective sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CVIII) contains extensive notes from Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo’s Tracte Containing the Artes of Curious Paintinge Carvinge & Buildinge (in the Oxford 1598 translation from the Italian by Richard Haydocke), including references to Michelangelo.

Matthew Imms
January 2012

Perkins 1990, p.42.
See Maurice William Davies, ‘J.M.W. Turner’s Approach to Perspective in his Royal Academy Lectures of 1811’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art, London 1994.

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