Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram 40: Tuscan Column in Perspective


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

Watercolour on paper
Support: 681 x 485 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 88

Technique and condition

This image on white wove Whatman paper has been shaded in a carefully graded watercolour wash, to illustrate how to make a column look convincingly three-dimensional. The underlying ‘drawing’ was made with a copying process which Turner used to generate a limited number of copies from other lecture diagrams, and this was most likely the upper of two copies made from a surviving original (Tate D17061; Turner Bequest CXCV 91), whose lower copy also survives (Tate D17060; Turner Bequest CXCV 90) and was used to illustrate the construction of a vanishing point, which was a basis for drawing the rest of the building.
Turner needed several copies so that he could if he chose illustrate the drawing of a single element such as a column alone, then later with perspectival lines going to a single point, or built up to a colonnade of identical columns, or used to illustrate the way to make a column look three-dimensional by shading, He could also use such a colonnade to form an entire elevation of the building. The process seems to have involved placing a blank sheet on a table, overlaying double-sided copying paper, followed by another blank sheet, another sheet of double-sided copying paper, and the image to be copied. Then he pressed down hard on each ruled line of the top copy with a sharp tool run against a ruler, and unpacked the paper stack to reveal one good and one pale copy, with little smudging on the ‘good’ side. If necessary, he strengthened straight lines in the copies, which would both be identical and not reversed, and then he hand-applied the curved elements freehand as necessary and/or painted the lines to make them bold enough to demonstrate to a large audience in a room lit artificially.
Sets of copies identified thus far include: Building in Perspective (Tate D17051; Turner Bequest CXCV 81) which is an upper copy of a lost original and A House in Perspective, Lecture Diagram 36 (D17052; CXCV 82), and Building (D17053; CXCV 83) which are both lower copies of comparable originals; Tracing of Guiding Lines of Diagram of Capital, Tuscan Entablature Worked Out in Perspective (D17077; CXCV 107) which was used as the original for the copies Capital, Tuscan Entablature Worked Out in Perspective (D17076; CXCV 106) and Tuscan Entablature (D17079; CXCV 109); two top copies now called Tracing of Guiding Lines (D17132; CXCV 161) and Classical Columns (D17142; CXCV 171) of a lost original and another copy Part of Classical Buildings, with Columns (D17141; CXCV 170) of the same subject, and the set discussed here.

Joyce Townsend
March 2011

Catalogue entry

In Lecture 3 as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, Turner presented a selection of methods for putting a square and various curved objects into perspective, and then moved on to discussing the architectural orders. Diagram 40 functions as an introduction of sorts to the Tuscan order, to be presented before he focused on the various parts, such the entablature, shaft, capital and pedestal. Turner writes that Tuscan is ‘the most simple of the orders in architecture’ and ‘according to Sir William Wootton’s simile it is labourer and therefore hope he will clear our road from the weedy limes which hitherto has encumbered our way that we can dispense with the plan and section and proceed by measures only’.1 The simile comes from Sir Henry Wotton (1568–1639), poet, diplomat and afterwards Provost of Eton who provided a detailed description of the orders in The Elements of Architecture (1624).2 Turner habitually called him William or ‘Sir Billy’ and in his Verse Book (private collection) noted variants on the same dictum on the Tuscan order:
Sir Wm Wootton has compared
The Tuscan to the labourer hard
Sir William Wootton often said
Tuscan like to the labourer is made
And now as such is hardly used3
Turner presented a perspective construction of this Tuscan column in Diagram 41 (Tate D17060; Turner Bequest CXCV 90). See also Tate D17061 (Turner Bequest CXCV 91) for the preparatory drawing used to trace the diagram’s guiding lines.
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 M folio 13 verso.
Wotton 1624, p.33.
Verse Book circa 1805–10; Andrew Wilton and Rosalind Mallord Turner, Painting & Poetry: Turner’s ‘Verse Book’ and his Work of 1804–1812, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1990, p.150.
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. Bower writes that ‘all sheets in this batch have some streaking across the sheet, probably from a fault in the sizing’.1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘89’ top left.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

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