Spectacles, glass, snuffbox and cardcase of Turner 1775 - 1851

Various Makers Early Nineteenth Century c.1825

“This pair of spectacles, the snuff box, magnifying glass and card case all come from the collection of Maria Tanner who helped clean Turner’s studio on Queen Anne Street in Chelsea.”

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Materials:

Various Media

Provenance:

  • Mrs Maria Tanner; by descent to her children, Mr Tanner and his sister,
  • Mrs Parkes, 29 Hercules Road Lambeth; purchased by John and Emma Carpenter (b.1856),
  • nee Towle, of Plymouth; a gift to her brother, Samuel and Emma Towle,
  • nee Trevor; by descent to Grace Emma Bradley, nee Towle (d.1977);
  • by descent to Gwendoline Helen Trevor Bradley (b.1909); by descent to her godson, cousin and executor, 2003.

Exhibited:

Tate Britain, 1979-2003

It is a necessary part of the painter’s craft to make the viewer see the world through his eyes. In the case of a painter such as Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851), whose conception of the visual world was so idiosyncratic, it is intensely curious also to view the world through his spectacles.

This pair of spectacles, the snuff box, magnifying glass and card case all come from the collection of Maria Tanner who helped clean Turner’s studio on Queen Anne Street in Chelsea. Maria Tanner was a friend of the painter’s housekeeper, Hannah Danby, and the two women lived on together in Turner's house after his death. Turner appointed Hannah Danby as ‘Custodian and Keeper of the Pictures House and Premises 47 Queen Anne Street’ by a provision in his will and left her £150 towards the upkeep of the Gallery. These small personal items of Turner were left to Mrs Tanner by Hannah Danby, and descended from her to her son and daughter, Mrs Parkes, who lived at 29 Hercules Road, Lambeth. Tanner and his sister sold them to John Carpenter and through his wife, Emma, they came a further three generations to the present owner. From 1978 until recently they have been on loan to Tate Britain where they were displayed in the Clore Gallery.

This pair of spectacles was made by Benz. They have descended in a later nineteenth century box from the optician Stanley Pearce of Wardour Street, inscribed ina nineteenth century hand 'Spectacles of JMW Turner RA also his magnifying glass.' Only one other pair of Turner’s spectacles is know to exist. This is the pair that was preserved by John Ruskin and which is now in the collection of the Ashmolean and at present on loan to the Tate Gallery. The two pairs of spectacles are made to different prescriptions, and it is suggested that the present pair were used for viewing at distance to correct Turner’s short-sightedness, whereas the Ashmolean pair were used for reading and painting.

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