View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
This diagram illustrates a method for drawing a cube by the French architect and engraver Jacques Androuet du Cerceau (1515–1585). Turner owned a copy of his Leçons de perspective positive (1576) and based his diagram on one of the plates (leçon II, lower figure).1 The diagram was most likely used to supplement already existing lecture material when further examples of perspective were required. See, for instance, Lecture Diagram 28 (Tate D17042), which illustrates another method by du Cerceau and was used as part of Lecture 3. This later diagram corresponds to a section of Turner’s lecture manuscripts describing a wide variety of methods of perspective, which Maurice Davies considers the late, extended version of Turner’s history of techniques.2
For the verso (blank save for cat’s paw prints), see Tate D40265.
Peter Bower writes that the sheet is Imperial size Whatman paper made by Finch and Thomas Robert Hollingworth, at Turkey Mill, Kent. Bower notes: ‘This paper is very heavily sized and bears some relationship to the Parchment Substitute papers produced by various hand made papermakers in the nineteenth century (and into the twentieth) for legal documents. Sometimes papermakers don’t quite keep up their quality control. In the case of this particular sheet [and about nine others from the same batch that Turner also used for diagrams] the mould has been left, probably overnight, without being cleaned and small amounts of pulp have dried between the support bars under the mould cover and the two layers of woven wire making up the cover. This affects the drainage of the sheet during formation and leaves a clear impression of the mould’s actual structure and construction’.1 Elsewhere Bower uses this particular sheet as an example of ‘a badly made “second” quality sheet from the Hollingworths’.2 He also mentions that Turner did not take particularly good care of it, pointing out that the sheet has several cat’s paw prints on the back.
Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation