Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram: Reflections in a Single Polished Metal Globe and in a Pair of Polished Metal Globes


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil and graphite on paper
Support: 640 x 968 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 176

Catalogue entry

This depiction of reflecting metal spheres was made in connection with Turner’s lectures as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy. In Lecture 5, Turner discussed reflection and refraction, or ‘reflexies’, and their relationship to light and shade, which he illustrated by diagrams of globes, some made of polished metal and others, presumably of glass, half-filled with water (see for example Tate D17148, D40024–D40026; Tate CXCV 177a–d). Here, on the left, Turner shows light from three windows, reflected on a polished metal sphere, while on the right he investigates these reflections in and between a pair of spheres. Turner clearly refers to the drawings in a manuscript used for lecturing in 18111 but has not marked them with his usual reference number. Sketches of the globes can be found in Turner’s first draft of the lecture (private collection).
In his text, Turner observes how, indoors, light can be manipulated and shadows ‘dissipated’. Commenting on his friend John Soane’s fascination with light and shade and his various architectural devices for controlling them, Helen Dorey speculates that Turner’s ideas and images helped to inspire features like the convex mirrors Soane installed in his house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Soane was present when Turner gave Lecture 5 in 1812.2
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 O folios 8 verso–11 verso. For an earlier version of this material, see BL MS H folios 10–14.
Dorey 2007, p.25, with a quotation from Soane’s Notebook, 3 February 1812.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower states that the sheet is heavily trimmed Antiquarian Whatman paper made by William Balston and Finch and Thomas Hollingworth at Turkey Mill, Maidstone, Kent.1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘169’ bottom left.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

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