J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Inscription by Turner: Notes on Perspective and Art History, from Matthew Pilkington and James Barry c.1809

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 47 Recto:
Inscription by Turner: Notes on Perspective and Art History, from Matthew Pilkington and James Barry circa 1809
Turner Bequest CVIII 47
Pen and ink on white wove paper, 88 x 115 mm
Inscribed by Turner in ink (see main catalogue entry)
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘47’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CVIII – 47’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The whole page is taken up with the following notes:
Highmore wrote a treatise upon perspective and | the ceiling by Rubens at Whitehall relative to Archite[...] | and perspective –
Old Neefs 162
Young Neefs
Laguerre was employd to repair the Pictures of | Julius Caesar by Andrea Mantegna he contend | himself by repairing while Carle Ma[...]i paintd | over Rapheal [sic] picture that he was employd to | repair
Barry speaks highly of the sapidity | full toned richness and dignified tones of the | St. Peter Martyr as the Grand style of Landsc
These passages are derived from the Gentleman’s and Connoisseur’s Dictionary of Painters by the Rev. Matthew Pilkington (1701–1774),1 first published in London in 1770. Although there had been a further edition in 1805, given the reference to Barry (see below) Turner appears to have used the 1798 edition, from which the page references here are taken.
The painter Joseph Highmore (1692–1780) wrote A Critical Examination of Those Two Paintings on the Cieling [sic] of the Banqueting-House at Whitehall: In Which Architecture Is Introduced, So Far as Relates to the Perspective (London 1754), as well as The Practice of Perspective, on the Principles of Dr. Brook Taylor (London 1763). Turner acquired his own copy of the latter at an unknown date.2 Pilkington mentions these ‘pamphlets’ in his entry on Highmore on page 792.
The two names which follow are those of the father and son Pieter Neefs (I) (?1578–between 1656 and 1661) and (II) (1620–after 1675), known for their architectural interiors, particularly of Antwerp Cathedral.3 There are entries for them both on page 451 of the 1798 edition of Pilkington, where they are differentiated as being ‘called the Old’ and ‘the Young’. ‘Perspective’ is mentioned as a speciality in the subheading of each entry, but discussed only in the broadest terms under the older artist.
The French painter Louis Laguerre (1663–1721) did some early restoration work for William III on Andrea Mantegna’s important series of paintings, the Triumphs of Caesar, circa 1486–1505 (Royal Collection, Hampton Court Palace, Surrey).4 In his entry on Laguerre, Pilkington approves of his ‘judgment to imitate the style of the original, instead of new clothing them in vermillion and ultramarine; a fate that befel [sic] Raphael even from the pencil of Carlo Maratti’ (page 802). In later life, Maratti (1625–1713) had been keeper of Raphael’s Vatican Stanze frescoes.5
The last paragraph is taken from ‘Reflections on the Present State of the Art of Painting in England ... In a Letter to the Dilettanti Society’ by the Irish history painter and Royal Academy professor James Barry (1741–1806), printed at the end of the 1798 edition of Pilkington’s dictionary. The text was also published separately in London that year as A Letter to the Dilettanti Society Respecting the Obtention of Certain Matters Essentially Necessary for the Improvement of Public Taste, and for Accomplishing the Original Views of the Royal Academy of Great Britain; its controversial content was one reason for Barry’s expulsion from the Academy in the following year.6
On page 829, Barry writes:
No intelligent artist who has studied Titian’s most Giorgionesque picture of St. Mark, in the sacristy of the church of the Salute in Venice, his Christ crowned with Thorns, in the sacristy at Milan (but now at Paris), and many others of his genuine, untouched, unadulterated works, can for a moment doubt or hesitate to subscribe to all that has been said regarding his suogo [sic], sapidity, his flow of well-nourished, harmonious colour: the landscape background also of his St. Peter Martyr, and many other pictures, are fully adequate to our highest expectations from his reputation as the greatest of all landscape painters...
Turner clearly responded to this passage, having copied and commented on Titian’s Crowning with Thorns and written about the Death of St Peter Martyr in the Studies in the Louvre sketchbook on his 1802 visit to Paris (respectively Tate D04338–D04340; D04306–D04308; Turner Bequest LXXII 51, 51a, 52; 27a, 28, 28a).
There are further passages from Pilkington earlier in the sketchbook (folios 5 verso, 6 recto, 27 verso; D07364, D07365, D07397).7

Matthew Imms
October 2011

A.C. Elias Jr, ‘Pilkington, Matthew (1701–1774)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 17 February 2009, < http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/22276>.
Andrew Wilton, Turner in his Time, London 1987, p.247.
Frans Baudouin, ‘Neefs [Neeffs]’ Grove Art Online, accessed 16 February 2009, http://www.oxfordartonline.com.
See for example C.H. Collins Baker, ‘Mantegna’s Cartoons at Hampton Court: II – The Preservation of the Cartoons’, Burlington Magazine, vol.64, no.372, March 1934, p.107 (quoting George Vertue); Gabriele Finaldi, ‘Mantegna, Andrea’, Grove Art Online, accessed 4 April 2008, http://www.oxfordartonline.com.
Manuela B. Mena Marqués, ‘Maratti [Maratta], Carlo’, Grove Art Online, accessed 4 June 2008, http://www. oxfordartonline.com.
William L. Pressly, James Barry: The Artist as Hero, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1983, pp.16, 156–7, 162.
This entry is paraphrased in Imms 2011, pp.3–4.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Inscription by Turner: Notes on Perspective and Art History, from Matthew Pilkington and James Barry c.1809 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, October 2011, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-inscription-by-turner-notes-on-perspective-and-art-history-r1136631, accessed 16 January 2022.