Joseph Mallord William Turner

Perspective Study of a Tuscan Column


View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink and graphite on paper
Support: 540 x 380 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 91

Technique and condition

This image on heavy weight white laid paper with a Whatman watermark was created with graphite pencil ruling, with some freehand drawing for small curved elements, strengthened with ruled lines in black ink. It was used as the top copy in a process which Turner used to generate two surviving copies (Tate D17058, D17060; Turner Bequest CXCV 88, 90).
He needed several copies so that he could if he chose illustrate the drawing of a single element such as a column alone, then later with perspectival lines going to a single point, or built up to a colonnade of identical columns, or used to illustrate the way to make a column look three-dimensional by shading, He could also use such a colonnade to form an entire elevation of the building. The process seems to have involved placing a blank sheet on a table, overlaying double-sided copying paper, followed by another blank sheet, another sheet of double-sided copying paper, and the image to be copied. Then he pressed down hard on each ruled line of the top copy with a sharp tool run against a ruler, and unpacked the paper stack to reveal one good and one pale copy, with little smudging on the ‘good’ side. If necessary, he strengthened straight lines in the copies, which would both be identical and not reversed, and then he hand-applied the curved elements freehand as necessary and/or painted the lines to make them bold enough to demonstrate to a large audience in a room lit artificially. Sets of copies identified thus far include: Building in Perspective (Tate D17051; Turner Bequest 81) which is an upper copy of a lost original and A House in Perspective, Lecture Diagram 36 (D17052; CXCV 82), and Building (D17053; CXCV 83) which are both lower copies of comparable originals; Tracing of Guiding Lines of Diagram of Capital, Tuscan Entablature Worked Out in Perspective (D17077; CXCV 107) which was used as the original for the copies Capital, Tuscan Entablature Worked Out in Perspective (D17076) and Tuscan Entablature (D17079; CXCV 109); two top copies now called Tracing of Guiding Lines (D17132; CXCV 161) and Classical Columns (D17142; CXCV 171) of a lost original and another copy Part of Classical Buildings, with Columns (D17141; CXCV 170) of the same subject, and the set discussed here.

Joyce Townsend
March 2011

Catalogue entry

Turner traced this preparatory drawing of a Tuscan column in perspective to make the guiding outlines of Diagrams 40 and 41 (Tate D17059, D17060; Turner Bequest 89, 90) for his lectures as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy. A tracing from the drawing (D40003) on the back of the unrelated Diagram 36 (Tate D17052; Turner Bequest CXCV 82) has been obscured by a mount.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower states that the sheet is Imperial Laid size paper made by James Whatman the younger at Turkey Mill, Maidstone, Kent.1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
See Tate D40004.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry

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