Joseph Mallord William Turner

Lecture Diagram: Perspective Method for a Cube by Jean Dubreuil (‘The Jesuit’)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 545 × 760 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCV 14

Catalogue entry

Prepared in connection with his lectures as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, Turner’s diagram illustrates a method for a cube devised by Jean Dubreuil or ‘the Jesuit’ (1602–1670), whose La Perspective Pratique (1642–9) was popular among artists, architects and designers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Turner based his diagram on a plate from Dr. Brook Taylor’s Method of Perspective Made Easy; both in Theory and Practice: in Two Books (London 1768, vol.II, pl.XIX, fig.5) by John Joshua Kirby (1716–74).1 During his early preparatory work for the lectures, Turner drew the same diagram in the Windmill and Lock sketchbook (Tate D07981;Turner Bequest CXIV 14a) but wrongly attributed the method to Jan (Hans) Vredeman de Vries (1527–?1606), for whose work, in the present series of diagrams, see Tate D16978; Turner Bequest CXCV 9. The diagram corresponds to a section of Turner’s lecture manuscripts containing discussion of a wide variety of methods of perspective, which Maurice Davies considers to be the late, extended version of Turner’s history of techniques.2
Kirby 1768, Book II, p.62.
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 AA folio 13.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower writes that the sheet is Imperial size Whatman paper made by Finch and Thomas Robert Hollingworth, at Turkey Mill, Kent. Bower notes: ‘This paper is very heavily sized and bears some relationship to the Parchment Substitute papers produced by various hand made papermakers in the nineteenth century (and into the twentieth) for legal documents. Sometimes papermakers don’t quite keep up their quality control. In the case of this particular sheet [and about nine others from the same batch that Turner also used for diagrams] the mould has been left, probably overnight, without being cleaned and small amounts of pulp have dried between the support bars under the mould cover and the two layers of woven wire making up the cover. This affects the drainage of the sheet during formation and leaves a clear impression of the mould’s actual structure and construction’.1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘41’ bottom left.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

Read full Catalogue entry

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