Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Notes on Colour, Light and Proportion, 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 33 a

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following notes:
a double | effect | of color | The color of the thing and the light of the sun | upon that thing .. For Color cannot be seen | without light Philosopicaly the extreme superficies | of a dark untransparent body lightend | The Light comes to the eye in a <bl...> blunter and | bigger angle than shadow from a pyramidal [?form] | is the extreme light and ex. shade, and Titian add | a. [...]rtion of white to his light that gave such a | wonderfull Spirit of Elevation of figures. Per | [...] alone must determine their corresponding proportions | as the upper parts much elevated are hid and [?determined] | that he [?is] the <Appelles> or Phidias who correspondingly with | the situation of his statue according to the general rule | teaching that so much of the part must be added that | is lost by the distance Which rule Phidias and | Praxilites observed in Monte Cavallo which
Jerrold Ziff has identified these notes, continuing from the recto of the present leaf (D07407), 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 Turner’s ‘a double effect of color’ in the top left corner is taken from a marginal heading in chapter II, ‘Of the Division of Painting’, of ‘The First Booke: Of the Naturall and Artificiall Proportion of Things’, page 19. The section to ‘lightend’ comes from page 19; to ‘shade’ from similar passages on pages 19 and 20; the passage on Titian from p.20; and the rest from page 22.
On page 20, Lomazzo argues that Titian went to extremes of light and shadow, so the corresponding ‘blunt’ angle of bright light and ‘acuter’ angles of shadows coming to the eye are emphasised. Turner’s notes are convoluted, as is Lomazzo’s text at this point; on page 19 he refers to the ‘Conus of the Pyramis [sic]’, and on page 20 to ‘Pyramidall forme’. On the latter page he says Titian would ‘add a little too much white’.

Matthew Imms
June 2008

Ziff 1984, p.49 note 6; see also Davies 1994, p.288; Lomazzo also checked directly.
Gage 1969, p.117.
Ziff 1984, p.49 note 11, citing Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 C folio 7 verso, as from page 22 of Lomazzo.
Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500–1900, New Haven and London 1981, pp.136–[141], figs.71 and 72.

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