Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Notes on Proportion and Perspective, 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: 115 × 88 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CVIII 61 a

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following notes:
ancients observed in all their works | this cause the Trajan column | made bigger and [...] 110
Monte Cav Phidias or Praxits | Figures.
Hipparchus writes that | certain beams meeting each | other given the visible objects | the true distance the distance | to stand off three time the hights | thereof .. by Balthasar | Petrucius & Raph there [...] they | would paint a narrow wall | the same distance
Maurice Davies has identified these notes as taken 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 from ‘The Fifth Booke: Of the Perspectives’: chapter I, ‘The Proeme’, page 184 (as far as ‘Figures); Chapter IIII, ‘Of the Manner of our Sight in General’, page 191 (‘Hipparchus ... objects’); and chapter VIII, ‘Of Distance’, page 200.
These are the last of Turner’s extensive notes from Lomazzo, continuing from folio 62 recto opposite (D07460). The first phrase concludes Turner’s transcription of a statement following a discussion of proportion in statuary designed to be displayed above the viewer: ‘And this is the true arte which the ancient observed in all their workes’. Turner’s note ‘made bigger’ is from Lomazzo’s phrase ‘made bigger, and so they [i.e. the figures in relief ascending the column] seem all of one bignes [sic]’, which is qualified further: ‘For the iudicious workman made them so much the bigger, as they lost by reason of the distance from the eie’. The number ‘110’ seems to echo a discussion of adjusting proportion in terms of a one in ten ratio, as noted on folio 62 recto.
Trajan’s Column also features in Turner’s notes on folios 34 recto, 35 recto, 35 verso, 36 verso, 37 recto and 37 verso (D07409, D07411, D07412, D07414–D07416); see also the entry for folio 33 verso (D07408). The sculptures formerly attributed to Phidias and Praxiteles in Rome’s Piazza del Quirinale (in the area once known as Monte Cavallo) are also mentioned on folio 33 verso (D07408; see entry for a full discussion).

Matthew Imms
June 2008

Davies 1994, p.289; Lomazzo also checked directly.
Nicholas Adams, ‘Peruzzi, Baldassare’, Grove Art Online, accessed 2 July 2008; see John Shearman, Raphael in Early Modern Sources (1483–1602), New Haven and London 2003, quoting this passage of Lomazzo (vol.II, p.1431) and indexing ‘Petruccius’ as Peruzzi (vol.II, p.1673).

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