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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Lecture Diagram 38: Method for a Tuscan Capital (after Lorenzo Sirigatti) and a Circle (attributed to Jacques Androuet du Cerceau and Joseph Moxon) c.1810

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Lecture Diagram 38: Method for a Tuscan Capital (after Lorenzo Sirigatti) and a Circle (attributed to Jacques Androuet du Cerceau and Joseph Moxon) circa 1810
D17055
Turner Bequest CXCV 85
Pencil and watercolour on white wove paper, 667 x 985 mm
Watermarked ‘J WHATMAN | 1808’
Inscribed by Turner in red watercolour ‘38’ top left, ‘SARIGGATTI’ top centre, ‘ANDROVET’ centre right and ‘MOXON’ bottom right
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘85’ bottom right
 
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
In Lecture 3 as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy, Turner provided a history of techniques for drawing a cube and other rectilinear forms in perspective. Then he gave four different methods for various circular shapes, explaining that ‘the circle has from the earliest time been considered from the various modes of the Old Masters the most difficult to attain’.1 The left side of Diagram 38 illustrates a method by Lorenzo Sirigatti for forming a Tuscan capital, while the right shows a one for a circle ascribed to both Jacques Androuet du Cerceau (1515–1585) and Joseph Moxon (1627–1691). The reasons for including these methods on the same diagram are unclear, as they are not related to each other in the lecture text.
Turner’s description of Sirigatti’s method deviates significantly from the source material. Maurice Davies writes that Turner may have based his knowledge of the method on a single diagram from Sirigatti’s La Pratica di Prospettiva (1625 edition, pl.33), which he copied into his Perspective sketchbook (Tate D07433; Turner Bequest CVIII 46).2 In an early draft of the lecture, Turner copied two versions of Sirigatti’s diagram into the margins and wrote his own interpretation of the method.3 When revising the manuscript for lecturing, Turner wrote a new description of the procedure which seems to correspond to what is illustrated in the diagram.4 Davies further notes that ‘Turner does not explain the method fully and it is not possible to determine whether it works or not’5 while the diagram reveals many errors which ‘all relate to the dual function of the top element of the construction as both geometrical section and perspective representation’.6
The right side of the diagram purports to illustrate a method for drawing a circle by du Cerceau and Moxon. It is unclear how the diagram corresponds to the lecture text, or why the two theorists are linked to the method illustrated. Davies explains that Turner’s description is based on a diagram from Moxon’s Practical Perspective Made Easie (1670, operation XI)7 while the drawing is derived from various diagrams in the same treatise (see for instance diagrams IX and XI). There is no obvious link to du Cerceau.
1
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 M folios 12 and verso.
2
Davies 1994, p.121.
3
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 F folio 9.
4
Turner, ‘Royal Academy Lectures’, circa 1807–38, Department of Western Manuscripts, British Library, London, ADD MS 46151 M folios 12 recto-verso.
5
Davies 1994, p.123.
6
Ibid., p.124.
7
Ibid., p.127.
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
1
Notes in Tate catalogue files.
Verso:
Blank, save for an inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘86’ bottom left.

Andrea Fredericksen
June 2004

Supported by The Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Revised by David Blayney Brown
January 2012

How to cite

Andrea Fredericksen, ‘Lecture Diagram 38: Method for a Tuscan Capital (after Lorenzo Sirigatti) and a Circle (attributed to Jacques Androuet du Cerceau and Joseph Moxon) c.1810 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, June 2004, revised by David Blayney Brown, January 2012, 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-lecture-diagram-38-method-for-a-tuscan-capital-after-lorenzo-r1136506, accessed 19 May 2022.