Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Notes on Perspective, from John Hamilton


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 16

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following notes:
The artist of that time exceels in groups of singles & | Figures in the same line giving them a | a beau grace a quiet expression of attitude | but respect to the animation and graduation of | objects in perspective & their distances was a | secret they were unaquainted wi<th> [‘ch’ inserted above] depending | upon the Science of optick their tessalated | pavement [?and] Bas reliefs, which for want | of Perspective, it is remarkable of all the | ancient authors, only one imperfect one of Euclid on | optics and not one on Persp1
Marquish dl’Hospital. Treatise | of Conick Sec has censured the method of demonstration
Maurice Davies has identified the notes and diagrams running from folio 15 verso to folio 18 verso (D40670, this page and D07382–D07386) as from various points in John Hamilton, Stereography, or, a Compleat Body of Perspective, in All Its Branches, London 1738.2 Turner could have consulted the copy at the British Museum (since transferred to the British Library, London).
The main body of Turner’s notes comes from the first page of Hamilton’s unpaginated ‘Preface’. Turner’s transcription is rather truncated and a little scrambled, as the passage about pavements and reliefs comes first in Hamilton’s text. He has qualified the opening words of the inscription here by the single word ‘Roman’ on folio 15 verso opposite (D40670), taken from Hamilton’s mention of ‘the ancient Greeks and Romans’, whose art he is discussing here.
The last lines, from the third page of the preface, refer to Guillaume François Antoine de l’Hôpital, Marquis de Sainte-Mesme, An Analy¿i¿k Treatise of Conick Sections, and their Use for Resolving of Equations in Determinate and Indeterminate Problems, translated by Edmund Stone, London 1723 (of which there is a copy which Turner could have consulted at the British Museum, since transferred to the British Library, London). The passage continues on the verso of this leaf (D07382).
See Venning 1982, p.44 for partial transcription from ‘it is remarkable’ (without identifying Turner’s source).
Davies 1994, p.288.
Technical notes:

Matthew Imms
June 2008

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