View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
As Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, Turner devoted part of Lecture 1 to a lengthy discussion of sculpture, showing illustrations including two diagrams based on prints of Roman columns published by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778) in the 1770s. Diagram 5 depicts the top portion of the Column of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (176–93 AD) in Piazza Colonna, and demonstrates the importance of adjusting the proportions of objects placed high above the viewer. Here Turner enters into an old debate as to whether the Romans increased the proportions of their bas reliefs as they spiralled to the top of the column, and compares this diagram to one of Trajan’s Column (Tate D17123; Turner Bequest CXCV 152).1 He concludes, ‘If we depend upon Piranesi’s geometrical sections, we shall find that the space between the spiral line [of Trajan’s Column] increases in the first volutions and in the Antonine it increases a whole return at the top’.2 Finberg mistook the diagram, and one of the bottom portion of the column (Tate D17121; Turner Bequest CXCV 150), for views of Trajan’s Column.
Blank, save for an inscription by Ruskin in red ink ‘153’ top right and by unknown hands in pencil ‘TURNER PORTF L3 (b)’ bottom right and ‘117’ top left.
Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation
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