Joseph Mallord William TurnerNote on Treatises on Perspective [Inscriptions by Turner] 1809

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Artwork details

Note on Treatises on Perspective [Inscriptions by Turner]
From Frittlewell Sketchbook
Turner Bequest CXII
Date 1809
Dimensionssupport: 107 x 180 mm
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXII 46
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Catalogue entry

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 46 Recto:
Note on Treatises on Perspective [Inscriptions by Turner] 1809
Turner Bequest CXII 46
Inscribed by Turner in pencil (see main catalogue entry) on white wove paper, 107 x 180 mm
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘46’ top left, inverted
Stamped in black ‘CXII 46’ top left, inverted
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Written with the sketchbook inverted. At left Turner writes (in a florid, cursive hand):
Clavius | Proclus | translated by Taylor | Du Plas. & Le Grand’. These names are enclosed by a bracket, to right of which Turner continues: ‘Commentor upon Elucid [sic] | possibly translated Elucid by ... | 3 book of Elucid is inferior | Appollonius spheres and cylinders | Archimedes
Here, and on folios 16 and verso and 77 verso–78 (D07772–D07773, D07835–D07836), Turner is collecting references and making notes for his lectures as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy. Christoph Clavius (1538–1612) translated the Elements of Euclid (circa 325BC–265BC) in 1574. Proclus Diadochus (411–85), head of Plato’s Academy, was a commentator on mathematics. The mathematician Brook Taylor (1685–1731) revolutionised the study of standard perspective in publications of 1715 and 1719 and was admired for much of the century. Among Turner’s preferred sources were Thomas Malton (Senior), A Compleat Treatise on Perspective in Theory and Practice on the True Principles of Dr Brook Taylor (1775) which he may have consulted in the library of the British Museum, and John Joshua Kirby, Dr Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective Made Easy, both in Theory and Practice of which he owned a copy of the third edition (1765).1 However, Turner was sceptical of Taylor’s methodology, which based perspective on a theoretical foundation of Euclidian geometry; instead, Turner preferred to offer students practical rules which they could follow without recourse to proof.2
Maurice Davies, Turner as Professor: The Artist and Linear Perspective, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1992, p.19.
Ibid., p.38.

David Blayney Brown
June 2009

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