Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Measured Diagram; Elevations and the Floor Plan of a House


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 98 × 162 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Catalogue entry

Pages such as this, with small ad hoc working diagrams, are scattered through Turner’s sketchbooks; like his terser written notes, they can be difficult to interpret. Inverted relative to the book’s foliation, down the right-hand side are two rough elevations of a small, symmetrical two-storey building (probably a house), and a floor plan including stairs. There is no indication as to whether the structure is real or a form of elaborate doodle.
In the middle of the page is a diagram comprising a triangular outline with horizontal divisions and an area of more complexity at the lower centre. The very specific numbering suggests measurements of a real object or plot of land, whether in inches, feet or yards. A plan of the bows of a boat or ship may be a possibility; compare the diagrams of what seem to be sails inside the front cover of the contemporary London Bridge and Portsmouth sketchbook (Turner Bequest CCVI; D40966).

Matthew Imms
December 2014

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