Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram 29: Perspective Method for a Cube (after Guidobaldo del Monte)


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 672 x 999 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 73

Display caption

Guidobaldo del Monte, or ‘Ubaldus’, was an Italian gentleman who devoted his life to scientific scholarship. Diagram 29 illustrates a method from his Perspectivae Libri Sex 1600, a six-volume treatise written in Latin on the mathematics of perspectival projection.

Guidobaldo’s fundamental contribution was to show how to find the vanishing point for any given line. He also showed how to project any given shape onto a plane according to the relative positions of viewer, plane and object.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

For Turner’s survey of historical methods for drawing a cube in perspective, begun in Lecture 2 as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, see notes to Diagram 27 (Tate D17041; Turner Bequest CXCV 71). Diagram 29 illustrates a method for drawing a cube proposed by Guidobaldo del Monte (1545–1607), or ‘Ubaldus’ as Turner, Thomas Malton and others called him. Turner’s lecture material is derived from Guidobaldo’s Perspectivae libri sex (1600). Maurice Davies charts the development of Turner’s understanding of the method.1
While preparing for his lecture, Turner copied a diagram from Guidobaldo’s treatise (1600, p.135) into his Perspective sketchbook (Tate D07427; Turner Bequest CVIII 43). Because the treatise was written in Latin – which Turner could not read – he did not note any of its text and relied on the diagram as his primary source. As a result, the preliminary version of Lecture 3 fails to give many essential details of the method.2 However, the text used for lecturing in 1811 provides a fuller and more accurate account as well as referring to his diagram.3 Some time after 1817, Turner revisited his notes on Guidobaldo’s perspective method and wrote an extended version of the procedure.4
Davies 1994, pp.85–7.
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 A folio 15 verso and see also folio 16 for the sketch.
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 M folios 3 and verso; see also F folio 3.
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 AA folio10.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower states that the sheet is Double Elephant size Whatman paper made by William Balston, at Springfield Mill, Maidstone, Kent. The largest group within the perspective drawings, this batch of paper shows a ‘grid-like series of shadows that can be seen within the sheet in transmitted light. This appears to have been caused by a trial method of supporting the woven wire mould cover on the mould’. Because this is the only batch he has seen with such a feature, Bower believes that ‘it may have been tried on one pair of moulds and for some reason never tried again’. He also writes that it is ‘not the best Whatman paper by any means; the weight of this group is also very variable and the moulds have not been kept clean during use’.1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘75’ bottom left.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry

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