Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram 3: Lower Part of the Column of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 552 × 774 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 150

Display caption

In a section of Lecture 1 devoted to sculpture, Turner compared this view of the base of the Antonine column to another drawing of its top. This allowed him to show how ancient Roman sculptors adjusted the proportions of the bas relief as it spiralled upwards in order to make it more visible to the spectator below.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

As Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, Turner devoted a large part of Lecture 1 to sculpture, discussing how the Romans adjusted the proportions of their figures depending upon the distance from which they would be seen by the viewer. According to Turner, this is exemplified by the Columns of Trajan (113 AD) and Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (176–93 AD) in Rome, both of which depict victorious military campaigns in spiral bas relief high above the spectator.1 Based on prints of the columns published by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778) between 1774–9, this drawing shows the bottom portion of the Column of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus in Piazza Colonna, while Diagram 5 (Tate D17123; Turner Bequest CXCV 152) depicts a view of the top. Finberg mistook these diagrams for views of Trajan’s Column.
For other derivations from Piranesi among the lecture diagrams see Tate D17090, D17091, D17099; Turner Bequest CXCV 120, 121, 128, based on his prison scenes, and D17124; Turner Bequest CXCV 102, probably derived from his views of Paestum.
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 C folio 8 verso–9, K folio 9 verso–10 and J folio 8 verso–9 verso.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower states that the sheet is Colombier size paper made by William Lepard, Hamper Mill, Watford, Hertfordshire.1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘144’ bottom left.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry

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