Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram 37: Perspective Method for a Pentangular Prism (after Dr Brook Taylor)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 272 × 1003 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 84

Catalogue entry

Prepared by Turner for Lecture 3 as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, Diagram 37 depicts a method by Dr Brook Taylor for rendering a perspective construction of a pentangular prism. According to Maurice Davies, Turner based his discussion and diagram on A Complete Treatise on Perspective in Theory and Practice on the Principles of Dr Brook Taylor (1775, pl.XVI, fig.76) by the elder Thomas Malton (1726–1801).1 Davies shows that Diagram 37 is inaccurate and ‘does not correspond to the lecture text, which contains the correct method of forming the vanishing points’2 while Turner made an accurate copy of Malton’s diagram in the margin of his early draft.3 When he produced his lecture diagram, however, Turner must have noticed certain inconsistencies with the first Diagram 36 (Tate D17050; Turner Bequest CXCV 80), which depicts a building developed from a simple double cube and is not entirely accurate as the vanishing points are incorrectly positioned. Realising that a conflict existed between the two diagrams ‘led him not to amend the erroneous one, but to make misleading alterations to the one that was correct’. As a result, both diagrams are incorrect.
Malton 1775, p.164; Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 F folios 7 verso–8; for a later version, see M folio 10 verso.
Davies 1994, pp.119–20.
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 F folios 7 verso.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower states that the sheet is Double Elephant size Whatman paper made by William Balston, at Springfield Mill, Maidstone, Kent. The largest group within the perspective drawings, this batch of paper shows a ‘grid-like series of shadows that can be seen within the sheet in transmitted light. This appears to have been caused by a trial method of supporting the woven wire mould cover on the mould’. Because this is the only batch he has seen with such a feature, Bower believes that ‘it may have been tried on one pair of moulds and for some reason never tried again’. He also writes that it is ‘not the best Whatman paper by any means; the weight of this group is also very variable and the moulds have not been kept clean during use’.1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘85’ bottom left

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry

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