Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram 21: Representation of a Globe in Perspective (after Thomas Malton Senior)

c.1810

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Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Pen and ink, graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 486 x 687 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17034
Turner Bequest CXCV 64

Display caption

Turner was fascinated by the problems posed by using linear perspective for rendering curved lines or forms. For his section on curvilinear perspective, he produced a series of diagrams based on illustrations from Malton’s A Compleat Treatise on Perspective 1775. He used these drawings to discuss the representation of such curved shapes as the globe, ellipse, parabola and hyperbola.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

Maurice Davies cites Diagram 21 and its corresponding lecture text as one of the many examples of Turner adapting a passage from the elder Thomas Malton (1726–1801) for his own teaching as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy. For instance, in an early version of his discussion devoted to curvilinear perspective, Turner quotes a theorem found in Malton’s A Compleat Treatise on Perspective in Theory and Practice on the True Principles of Dr Brook Taylor (1775): ‘The representation of a globe in perspective is an ellipsis, excepting when the centre coincides with the centre of the picture, then it is a circle’.1 Turner copied Malton’s diagram (pl.VII, fig.32), but, according to Davies, ‘realised that he was considering spheres (globes) before he had finished with circles and without a second thought simply amended the passage’ to suit his meaning. In the manuscript used for lecturing in 1811, Turner rewrote the passage thus: ‘The representation of a circle in perspective is an ellipsis, excepting when the centre coincides with the centre of the picture, then only it is a true circle’.2 Because of this alteration, the accompanying diagram is no longer relevant to his lecture discussion. There is a sketch possibly after Malton’s diagram in Turner’s lecture notes.3
1
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 D folio 5 verso; based on Malton 1775, p.95. See also E folio 11.
2
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 L folio 9 verso.
3
Ibid.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower states that the sheet is Super Royal size Whatman paper made by William Balston and Finch and Thomas Robert Hollingworth, at Turkey Mill, Maidstone, Kent. He writes that all ‘the sheets in this batch have some streaking across the sheet, probably from a fault in the sizing’.1
1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
Verso:
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘66’ bottom left.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry