Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Lecture Diagram 52*: The Temple of Neptune at Paestum (?after Giovanni Battista Piranesi) circa 1810
Turner Bequest CXCV 102
Turner Bequest CXCV 102
Pencil and watercolour on white wove paper, 479 x 621 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner as Professor: The Artist and Linear Perspective, Tate Gallery, London, October 1992–January 1993 (14, reproduced in colour).
John Soane & J.M.W. Turner: Illuminating a Friendship, exhibition catalogue, Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, January–May 2007 (6, reproduced in colour).
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.I, p.589, CXCV 102, as ‘Doric columns and entablature’.
Maurice Davies, Turner as Professor: The Artist and Linear Perspective, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1992, pp.23, 28, reproduced in colour fig.14.
Maurice William Davies, ‘J.M.W. Turner’s Approach to Perspective in His Royal Academy Lectures of 1811’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art, London 1994, pp.272, 281 (BB f12), 282 (BB f18).
Helen Dorey, ‘Turner and Soane: Illuminating a Friendship’, Turner Society News, No.104, December 2006, pp.11, 15 note 8.
Helen Dorey, John Soane & J.M.W. Turner: Illuminating a Friendship, exhibition catalogue, Sir John Soane’s Museum, London 2007, pp.10, 18, 24 reproduced in colour.
Prepared by Turner for his lectures as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, this finished watercolour of the Temple of Neptune at Paestum was once marked ‘52*’ according to Finberg. Maurice Davies suggests that the number may have been attached to a mount which has since been removed.1 A reference to the diagram occurs in a draft lecture text on architectural orders which Davies links to Lecture 4.2 Turner also refers to the Temple of Neptune in what Davies describes as a draft of a lecture on shadows that is now lost but recorded in a collection of manuscript fragments.3
As Helen Dorey demonstrates, this diagram and its subject are evidence of the overlapping interests of Turner and John Soane as respectively Professors of Perspective and Architecture at the Royal Academy. Soane had visited Paestum, south of Naples, in 1778 when he spent several days measuring the Doric Temple of Neptune which although ‘exceedingly rude’ and lacking ‘elegance & taste’ exerted enduring influence on his own work for its grandeur and scale.4 Soane referred to the temple in his second, third, seventh and tenth Academy lectures; the third, in which it is mentioned twice, was given in 1810 when Turner is likely to have drawn his own diagram. Illustrating the pronaos of the Temple of Neptune with its massive paired columns, a feature which Soane especially admired and acknowledged in his own buildings, it enabled Turner to demonstrate the primitive grandeur of the Doric style but also the fall of slanting shadows in oblique sunlight. Dorey states that Soane is likely by now to have acquired his fifteen drawings of Paestum by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778), one of which depicts the temple from the same angle looking south-west and could well have been Turner’s direct source. Alternatively, Turner might have seen the etched plate made by Piranesi late in life and published posthumously.5 Turner visited Paestum in 1819.
Davies 1992, p.105 note 50.
Davies 1994, p.272; Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 M folio 33 verso.
Davies 1994, pp.263, 281 (BB f12); Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 BB folios 12 and verso.
Soane, ‘Italian Sketches, J. Soane, 1779’, Sir John Soane’s Museum, London; John Wilton-Ely, Piranesi, Paestum & Soane, Sir John Soane’s Museum, London 2002; Dorey 2007, p.24.
Piranesi, Différantes vues de quelques restes de trois grands édifices qui subsistent encore dans le milieu de l’ancienne ville de Pesto, pl.XIV; Dorey 2007, p.24 reproduced fig.1.
Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation
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