Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram 33: Perspective Method for a Cube (after Jacopo Vignola)

c.1810

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 672 x 1004 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17047
Turner Bequest CXCV 77

Display caption

Here Turner illustrates a method from Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola's Le Due Regole cella Prospettiva Practica 1583, long seen as the definitive statement on Renaissance perspective. Vignola began his career as a painter, but later became the leading architect in Rome after Michelangelo. His buildings included the Villa Farnese at Caprarola and the church of Il Gesù in Rome, which he designed in a restrained classical style.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

For Lecture 3 as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, Turner prepared Diagram 33 demonstrating procedures for drawing a perspective representation of a cube set out by Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola (1507–1573) in the posthumous Le due regole della prospettiva pratica (1583). For his general understanding of Vignola’s approach, Turner relied on John Joshua Kirby’s Dr Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective made Easy, both in Theory and in Practice (1765, II, pp.61–2; diagram XIX, fig.1), of which he owned a copy that had come to him from his friend Henry Scott Trimmer, a descendant of the author. Early notes on Vignola and a sketch copied from Kirby can be found in the Windmill and Lock sketchbook (Tate D07979, D07976; Turner Bequest CXIV 13 verso, 12). Maurice Davies writes that Turner’s description in Lecture 3 is unusually clear and gives a better impression than did Kirby of Vignola’s overall strategy.1
1
Davies 1994, p.95; Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 A folio 6 (and see sketch on same page), F folio 3, M folios 5 verso–6 and AA folio 8.
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
1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
Verso:
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘79’ bottom left.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry