Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Upper Stages of the Monument, London


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 117 x 87 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXIV 12 a

Display caption

This is one of a series of notes in which Turner analyses the appearance of the sculpture on top of the Monument from different viewpoints (see his lecture diagram number 4 (no.18)).

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

The Monument stands at the junction of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill in the City of London, just north-west of London Bridge. It was erected in 1671–7 to commemorate the Great Fire of London of 1666 and the reconstruction which followed. Sir Christopher Wren and Dr Robert Hooke contributed to the design, a hollow Doric column with a staircase to a square platform at about 49 metres from the ground, from which rises a drum topped by tapering stone dome and a gilt urn and flames at an overall height of 61 metres.1
Turner had first shown the Monument in about 1794, in the background of his views of St Magnus King and Martyr’s Church beyond London Bridge (Tate D00695, D00696; Turner Bequest XXVIII J, K). The present drawing of its upper stages continues on folio 13 recto opposite (D07978) with the column’s capital and the prominent entablature which forms the viewing platform. While the upper circumference of the drum, the dome and the urn are represented in shallow perspective from below, the entablature appears side-on, as if in an architect’s elevation. Turner either inferred this projection from observations at ground level, or climbed to a high vantage point at about the level of the platform, the nearest possibility being the bell tower of St Magnus’s.
The dome is drawn twice, with what was presumably a first, shallower version evident within the higher profile which continues upwards. This in itself perhaps demonstrates the difficulty of drawing a complex architectural form in perspective. To the right is what appears to be a detail of the garlands around the urn. There is a faint sight line drawn at a steep angle up the left-hand profile, and the inscription at the bottom left is the last word of three running up this line from the opposite page, the first being ‘Equal’. At the top left is a simple ground plan of the base of the Monument, centred on the circular section of the column, with a concentric square marked as ‘20’ feet (6 metres), as the point beyond which the top comes it view from the surrounding streets and a further note to that effect.

Matthew Imms
January 2012

‘History – Introduction’, The Monument: Great Fire of London 1666, accessed 24 February 2010,
Davies pp.32, 106 note 8; Davies 1994, p.290.

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