Joseph Mallord William Turner

Diagram Relating to Placing a Square in Perspective, after Viator (Jean Pélerin)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink on paper
Support: 88 × 115 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CVIII 27

Catalogue entry

Maurice Davies has identified the sources as the first plate and the text of the sixth unpaginated page from the end of Viator (Jean Pélerin), De Artificiali Perspectiva, Toul 1505. There are further notes from this source on folio 26 verso opposite (D07395) and on folio 44 recto (D07429).
Davies has observed that Turner had difficulty identifying his source in this case, as in Turner’s words the copy he consulted at the British Museum (since transferred to the British Library, London) ‘has no title page’.1 Instead he rather uncertainly translated the book’s colophon (set in a heavy Gothic font), most of which he transcribed in its original Latin on folio 61 recto (D07458). The full original text is as follows: ‘Impressum Tulli. Anno catholice veritas Duig¿tisimo quito supza Milesimu: Ad nonu Calendes Julias, solerti opera petri iacobi pbzi/Incole pagi Sancti Nicolai.’2
Turner noted elsewhere that ‘Peter James’ was ‘probably a monk of the Francescan order from many of the woodcuts being of that costume religious’.3 Pélerin (?1435/40–1524), known as ‘Viator’, was a priest, but also a diplomat, sculptor and architect in charge of the cathedral at Toul from around 1498.4
Turner copied Viator’s quite straightforward diagram, the middle one of three in the first plate, rather carelessly here and twice on folio 44 recto, without properly indicating the actual square framed within the circle; he apparently reminded himself on folio 7 verso (D07367) to look ‘at 1505 for a square’, but Davies notes that ‘no successful copy of the diagram survives’.5 Andrea Fredericksen has linked the present sketch and those on folio 44 recto to Turner’s lecture diagram 27, showing concentric squares in perspective (see entry for Tate D17041; Turner Bequest CXCV 71); the diagram also seems to have been informed by the perspective plan of concentric steps noted from Viator on folio 26 verso.
Davies 1994 pp.88, 308 note 54, quoting Turner’s note in his ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 F folio 2 verso.
See also transcription with slight variations in Davies 1994, p.308 note 55.
Ibid., citing Turner’s lecture notes at ADD MS 46151 F folio 2 verso.
Alexandra Skliar-Piguet, ‘Pélerin, Jean [Viator]’, Grove Art Online, accessed 23 May 2008,
Davies 1994, pp.88, 306 note 56; see fig.3.9 for Viator’s diagram, fig.3.10 for the present page, and fig.3.11 for a related diagram in Turner’s lecture notes at ADD MS 46151 A folio 16 recto.
Technical notes:
There is some offsetting from the diagram in ink opposite on folio 26 verso (D07395).

Matthew Imms
June 2008

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