Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram 4: Two Studies of the Monument, London, Seen from Below


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 672 x 997 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 151

Display caption

Two views of the sculpture at the top of the Monument, which commemorates the great fire of London of 1666. These demonstrate that 'the appearance of the flaming ball' depends on the position of the spectator. The distance used for the view on the right is great enough for the whole sculpture to be seen, but Turner observed that if a viewer is 'within 20 feet', as on the left, 'the vase supporting the blazing ball' cannot be seen. See no.19 in showcase for Turner's on-the-spot observations of the Monument.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

This diagram depicts the top of the Monument, erected in the City of London by Christopher Wren in 1671–7 to commemorate the Fire of London. The two studies of the column with its flaming ball are based on sketches Turner made in his Windmill and Lock sketchbook (Tate D07977–D07978, D07985, D07988, D07989, D08002, D08005; Turner Bequest CXIV folio12 verso–13, 17, 19 verso, 20, 31, 43).
Early in Lecture 1 as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, Turner discussed the necessity of considering the height at which sculpture would be displayed when giving due proportion. Providing both ancient and contemporary examples, he compared these studies of the Monument to views of various Roman columns (Tate D17121, D17123, D17124; Turner Bequest CXCV 150, 152, 153) and of the statue of George I surmounting St. George’s Church, Bloomsbury (Tate D17115, D17116; Turner Bequest CXCV 144, 145). In his text, he describes how the inscriptions at the Monument’s top as well as its surmounting ball of fire are obscured to the passing observer.1
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 J folio 8.
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.
Currently laid down.

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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