Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Notes on Art, from Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo


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 39 a

Catalogue entry

Most of the page is taken up with the following notes:
either Aristides or Phamphilus had painted a bird sitting | upon an ear of corn without making the corn bend a jot [Lomazzo: ‘iot’] | which an ignorant ploughman detected not to be nature | and Mic Angelo perhaps from ridicule drew at the back of | a piece of Carving a blind beggar led by a dog but the | cord being so stiff without any bowing that a boy say the | dog would strangled or go no further which amused the painters | present | Gaudentius dog in his picture of Christ carrying | his cross at Canobium defaced by a dog Cæsar Sestius | the Landscape painter tree inticed the birds upon them
Jerrold Ziff has identified these notes, continuing from the recto of the present leaf (D07419), as free transcriptions from the 1598 English edition of Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo’s Tracte Containing the Artes of Curious Paintinge Carvinge & Buildinge (see the sketchbook Introduction),1 in this case chapter XXIII, ‘Of the Motions of Trees, and All Other Thinges That Are Mooved’, of ‘The Seconde Booke: Of the Actions, Gestures, Situation, Decorum, Motion, Spirit, and Grace of Pictures’, page 91 (as far as ‘present’), and chapter I, ‘Of the Vertue of Colour’, of ‘The Third Booke: Treating of Colour’, pages 93 (concerning Gaudentius) and 94 (from ‘Cæsar Sestius’ onwards).
Lomazzo gives many other semi-legendary examples of paintings so naturalistic as to fool observers. For ‘Gaudentius’ (Gaudenzio Ferrari, 1475/80–1546),2 see also folios 34 recto, 38 verso and 39 recto (D07409, D07418, D07419). Further passages of Turner’s extensive notes from Lomazzo appear later in the sketchbook, continuing on folio 40 verso (D07422).

Matthew Imms
June 2008

Ziff 1984, pp.46, 49 note 6, and ‘Appendix I’, p.50, with transcription of Turner’s notes (followed here with slight variations); see also Davies 1994, p.288; Lomazzo also checked directly.
Riccardo Passoni, ‘Ferrari, Gaudenzio’, Grove Art Online, accessed 30 April 2008,

Read full Catalogue entry


You might like

In the shop