J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

Joseph Mallord William Turner Lecture Diagram: Reflections in a Single Polished Metal Globe and in a Pair of Polished Metal Globes c.1810

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Lecture Diagram: Reflections in a Single Polished Metal Globe and in a Pair of Polished Metal Globes circa 1810
D17147
Turner Bequest CXCV 176
Pencil and oil paint on white wove paper, 640 x 968 mm
Watermarked ‘JAMES WHATMAN TURKEY MILL KENT 1794’
Inscribed by Ruskin in red ink ‘176’ bottom right
 
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
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
1
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.
2
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
1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
Verso:
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

How to cite

Andrea Fredericksen, ‘Lecture Diagram: Reflections in a Single Polished Metal Globe and in a Pair of Polished Metal Globes c.1810 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, June 2004, revised by David Blayney Brown, January 2012, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-lecture-diagram-reflections-in-a-single-polished-metal-globe-r1136761, accessed 30 August 2014.