Joseph Mallord William Turner

Notes on Anatomy, Geometry and the Structure of the Eye, for Perspective Lectures (Inscriptions by Turner)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Ink on paper
Support: 115 × 76 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CII 29

Catalogue entry

These notes (not transcribed by Finberg) continue on folio 28 verso (D06775); for convenience they are given in full here:
Carlisle affirms the mind is only | a quick perception and that some having | a quicker degree of perception is Genius | or rather only the common powers of mental | faculties which if carried by enthusiasm | is capable of producing that which it | thinks itself able to obtain and therefore | what has been done by the ancients may | be done again. That the hand & Eye | are mere agents and that discrimination | if cause of nature is not in the power of | vision by the ... power of perception | That the Greeks were very little acquainted | with Anatomy. That they produced the | wonderful dignity of man in their marbles | by Geometrical proportions. Yet many | greek names are admitted among the | ... muscles of the Body | 2nd lecture. denying the Hypotheses | of Craniology that no differences | be found in the Brain corresponding | with the form of the Skull and that | instances have been when some of [continued on folio 28 verso] the brain (the seat of the mind) | by accidental causes have | retained the same faculties although | some parts of the seat (supposed to belong to filial affection) ... I shall in future show the | eye is placed rather divergent | to the side of the Head and looking | thus [here Turner has added a sketch] therefore the transparent part of the [eye] appears to move yet | globe of the eye or is centrically | placed and by being rather out | of the parallel enables the trans | parent part to reflect objects from the side view
For Turner’s notes for his lectures as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy see Introduction to this sketchbook and under folio 15 (D06749). This additional text is probably connected with his plans for Lecture 1, on perspective and geometry, in which he sought to establish the relationship between his subject and the others taught by the Academy’s Professors, including anatomy and sculpture.1 It also seems to anticipate his discussion of the subject of vision, developed in his later courses of lectures from 1814 to 1818.

David Blayney Brown
March 2007

For a discussion of this lecture see Maurice Davies, Turner as Professor: The Artist and Linear Perspective, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1992, pp.31–-6
Gage 1969, pp.110, 250 note 181. Turner’s notes refer to Carlisle’s first two lectures. For notes on a third lecture see Windmill and Lock sketchbook, folio 6 verso (Tate D07968; Turner Bequest CXIV 6a)
Carlisle’s views had been set out in an article in The Artist, 4 July 1807; for Carlisle and further discussion of these issues, see Martin Postle in Ilaria Bignamini and Martin Postle, The Artist’s Model: Its Role in British Art from Lely to Etty, exhibition catalogue, University Art Gallery, Nottingham 1991, p.23
‘An Account of Dr Gall’s System of Craniology’, Medical and Physical Journal, vol.15, no.85, pp.210–13.
Opie 1809, p.29

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