Joseph Mallord William Turner

Perspective Elevation of a Large Room with Ionic Columns

c.1810–28

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 322 × 405 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17128
Turner Bequest CXCV 157

Catalogue entry

This faint, provisional drawing represents a room articulated by Ionic columns, receding towards a low vanishing point at the left. Whether it is an attempt to represent an existing space or an exercise in architectural composition is as yet undetermined. There is a tentative, freehand shallow arch springing from the cornice over clusters of columns flanking the colonnade on the right, suggesting that the space is probably an enclosed room rather than an exterior. The unrelated short arcs at the left were perhaps made with compasses or a French curve-type template.
The vertical lines extending across the full height of the sheet near the centre and towards the right are aligned with those on a related drawing (Tate D17126; Turner Bequest CXCV 155), where the columns are indicated by the criss-crossed circular elements on the right of a steeply receding floor plan.
Turner gained a thorough early grounding in the classical orders and perspective during his time working under the architectural draughtsman Thomas Malton, perhaps between the middle of 1789 and the end of 1791.1 Although these the present work and the related D17128 have been placed in a subsection alongside the diagrams closely associated with Turner’s work as the Royal Academy’s Professor of Perspective and dated accordingly in line with the broadest span allocated by Andrea Fredericksen in her entries for other sheets from Turner Bequest section CXCV, it is possible given the 1797 watermarks, their hesitant manner and uncertain purpose, that they may date from considerably earlier. While the ruled elements of the relatively simple space appear convincing enough, the Ionic capitals and bases of the columns are rendered noticeably weakly and unconvincingly; given the necessarily anonymous character of this undistinguished exercise, it may even be possible that it is not by Turner, and that the sheets somehow came into his possession as a casual gift or having caught his eye when discarded elsewhere. That the verso was used as a watercolour test sheet (D40012) demonstrates Turner’s lack of concern for the present drawing.
1
As reasoned by Eric Shanes, Young Mr Turner: The First Forty Years: 1775–1815, New Haven and London 2016, p.20.

Matthew Imms
September 2016

1
Bower 1990, p.111 note 6.

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