Monthly Archives: March 2013

Justly esteemed eminent masters

An anonymous essay published in the Universal Magazine in November 1748 on The Art of Painting contained, besides technical advice, a brief list “of those painters of our nation, now living … [who] are justly esteemed eminent masters”. The list is interesting for providing a snapshot at an early period. Both Gainsborough and Reynolds, then young and largely unknown, make the cut. The list is as follows:

Austin, Browne, Barrat, Blakey, Crank, Dandridge, Eccard, Ellys, Fry, Gainsborough, Goupy, Goodwin, Green, Grilsieir, de Groit, Hayman, Hogarth, Hoar, Hone, Hymore, Hudson, Jenkins, Knapton, Lambert, Lens, Mathias, Monamie, Murry, Penny, Pine, Pond, Ramsey, Reynolds, Scot, Shackleton, Seymour, Soldy, Somers, Spencer, Smith, Toms. The two Vanhakens, Van Blake, Van Diest, Vanderbank, Vandergucht, Verelst. Wills, Wotton, Worsdale, Williams, Wood, Wilks, Wilson, Wollaston. Zink.

It would be fair to say that their reputations have diverged in the intervening centuries.

Seven years later, not all of these artists were alive, or living in England, but of those that were, some nineteen subscribed to Kirby’s Method of Perspective.

John and James Elmy

John and James Elmy subscribed to Kirby’s Historical Account. The Elmy family has a long history in East Anglia. John and James were from the Beccles branch, sons of William Elmy, a tanner. William’s father, and his father before him had also been tanners. However, William’s brother John was a woolen draper and married into the Folkard family. John the woolen draper took one Thomas Rede as an apprentice and Rede then married his daughter Martha. They had a son Tomas, who in turn married Theophilia, the daughter and heiress of William Leman.

Of the two sons, John {1705-1756}, the eldest, was a surgeon in Beccles. He was one of the people signing the notices whenever a smallpox outbreak occurred in Beccles. James followed his father into the tanning business and married, around 1747 or 1748, Sarah Tovell of Parham, where Kirby was born. When James and Sarah were engaged, William Leman was one of the people noting his receiving a dowry.

James Elmy’s business ended in bankruptcy in 1758 and all his property was sold at auction to recover his debts. He went out to the West Indies and is supposed to have gone to Guadeloupe and died there, although there is some evidence that he worked at Roseau in Dominica through the 1760s at least. Fortunately for his wife, her son, and three young daughters, the Tovells had money and they moved to Parham near the rest of the family. There Sarah (1751—1813) became friends with Alethea Brereton. Alethea’s fiancé, William Levett, introduced her to his good friend George Crabbe (the poet) and they married in 1783.

William Leman

William Leman subscribed to Kirby’s Historical Account. The Lemans were an old and well-established Suffolk family, with a main seat at Brampton. William Leman (1704—1789) himself was a lawyer, and lived at Beccles, but he was buried at Brampton. William was the eldest son of William Leman and Elizabeth Starling (or Sterling), who was presumably related to the Elizabeth Starling who married Samuel Pallant in 1739. William married a cousin, Sarah Leman. Sarah’s brother, Robert, was High Sheriff of Suffolk in 1744, and his wife was Mary, the daughter of the excellently-named Nunn Prettyman of Laxfield and brother of Nunn Prettyman, Rector of Brampton, whose patron was the Lemans.

William and Sarah had three daughters, and when the last of Robert Leman’s children died in 1807, it was one of their grandsons, Naunton Thomas Orgill, Rector of Brampton, who inherited the property, and took the Leman family name.

Kirby Live!

I am giving a talk at the American Mathematical Society meeting at Boston College, the weekend of April 5-6.

My talk is on Perspective, Painting, Publishing, and Patronage: Joshua Kirby and Brook Taylor. It will be aimed at historians of mathematics and focus on a comparison of the content and discourse between Brook Taylor’s Linear Perspective and Joshua Kirby’s Method of Perspective.


Related Posts

Method of Perspective

Who was Brook Taylor?

Brook Taylor’s Linear Perspective

More on Brook Taylor’s “Linear Perspective”

Samuel Pallant

Samuel Pallant was an Ipswich lawyer who subscribed to Kirby’s Historical Account. As far as I can discover, this was the only book to which he subscribed.

A Samuel Pallant was articled to Robert Hamby in 1738.  Pallant’s name appeared regularly in the Ipswich Journal acting as a letting or sales agent for a variety of (often substantial) farms, pubs, and houses from 1742 onwards for twenty years. Making a few heroic assumptions, he was probably a son of the Samuel Pallant who married Elizabeth Newson in April 1713. Samuel Pallant the father is then most likely the voter from Halesworth in the 1727 poll. In 1743, Samuel Pallant advertises a stand of timber available from his land in Halesworth, then in 1748 he advertises a cattle fair there for the benefit of farmers from Norfolk, where fairs were banned because of ‘distemper’ among the cattle. Finally, in 1749, Rook-Yard farm in Halesworth, “now in the occupation of Samuel Pallant” for an annual rent of £110, was advertised to let. It seems likely that the father farmed the land in Halesworth and the son was an attorney in Ipswich, living on Brook Street.

The younger Samuel Pallant married Elizabeth Starling in 1739 before she died in 1743, possibly in childbirth. He then married Mary Hammond, a widow of Ipswich. A John Pallant, son of Samuel of Ipswich, was apprenticed in 1767, which presumably would make him a child of the second marriage. Of other children I know nothing, although a Samuel Pallant was articled to Samuel in 1756, and a Richard in 1762.

The Old English Way of Living

Complaints of modern decadence in diet and habits are nothing new, and the old have ever complained of the young. Here is a fine example of the genre, by way of the Gentleman’s Magazine of September 1731.

The old English Way of Living.

An old Gentleman, near 90, who has a florid and vigorous Constitution, tells us the difference between the Manners of the present Age, and that in which he spent his Youth. With regard to eating in his time, Breakfast consisted of good Hams, cold Sirloin, and good Beer, succeeded with wholesome Exercise, which sent them home hungry, and ready for Dinner, made up of plain Meats, dress’d after a plain manner; Suppers were but slight Meals; and good Hours then in Fashion; Men of Quality were stirring at the same Hour that raises a modern Tradesman; and their Ladies were better Huswifes than most of Our Farmer’s Daughters.

    That the present Elegance in eating, and the neglect of good Hours, is productive of Intemperance, and tends to the decay not only of the Strength, but the Capacities of elderly People. Whereas the good old Way of living preserved the Vigor and Faculties to a good old Age; of which given an instance of Mr. Waller, who sat in the parliaments both of James I and James II.

It almost makes you yearn for the 1650s, doesn’t it? Remember to eat a good breakfast.

More on Brook Taylor’s “Linear Perspective”

Brook Taylor’s book, Linear Perspective (1715) is short, only 40 pages, but dense. For later comparison with Kirby’s exposition, I want to bring out a few more features of Taylor’s text.

Taylor divides his book into five sections:

Section I: Containing an Explanation of those things that are necessary to be understood in order to the Practice of Perspective.

    This section contains his 10 definitions, along with several ‘Corollaries’, and the first four propositions.

Section II: Propositions relating to the General Practice of Perspective.

    The longest section, this one includes Propositions 5-18, with a set of examples between Propositions 16 and 17.

Section III: Of finding the Shadows of given Figures

    A short section with three propositions on shadows.

Section IV: Of finding the Representations of the Reflections of Figures on polish’d Planes.

    Taylor dispenses with reflections in three quick propositions.

Section V: Of the Inverse Practice of Perspective and of the manner of Examining Pictures already drawn.

    The mathematician comes to the fore with the study of inverse problems. The first proposition is, “Having given the Representation of a Line divided into two Parts in a given Proportion; to find its Vanishing Point.” He then tackles similar problems for triangles, parallelograms, trapezia, and “right-angled Parallelepipedons”.


For a flavor of Taylor’s style and terminology, here are the first few definitions, along with the figure they reference.

DEF. I. The Center of the Picture is that Point where a Line from the Spectator’s Eye cuts it (or its Plane continued beyond the Frame, if need be) at Right Angles.

If the Plane CD be the Picture, and O the Spectator’s Eye, then a Perpendicular let fall on the Picture from O, will cut it in its Center P.

DEF. II. The Distance of the Picture, or principal Distance, is the Distance between the Center of the Picture and the Spectator’s Eye

    In the same Figure PO is the Distance of the Picture.

DEF. III. The Intersection of an Original Line is that Point where it cuts the Picture.

    If IK be an Original Line cutting the Picture in C, then is C the Intersection of the Line IK.

DEF. IV. The intersection of an Original Plane, is that Line wherein it cuts the Picture.

    AB is an Original Plane cutting the Picture in the Line CQ, which therefore is its Intersection.

DEF. V. The Vanishing Point of an Original Line, is that Point where a Line passing thro’ the Spectator’s Eye, parallel to the Original Line, cuts the Picture.

    Such is the Point V, the Line OV being parallel to the Original Line IK.

COROL. I. Hence it is plain, that Original Lines, which are parallel to each other, have the same Vanishing Point. For one Line passing thro’ the Spectator’s Eye, parallel to them all, produces the Vanishing Point of ’em all, by this Definition.

COROL. 2. Those Lines that are parallel to the Picture have no Vanishing Points. Because the Lines which should produce the Vanishing Points, are in this Case also parallel to the Picture, and therefore can never cut it.

COROL. 3. The Lines that generate the Vanishing Points of two Original Lines, make the same Angle at the Spectator’s Eye, as the Original Lines do with each other.

DEF. VI. The Vanishing Line of an Original Plane, is that Line wherein the Picture is cut by a Plane passing thro’ the Spectator’s Eye parallel to the Original Plane.

    Such is the Line VS, the Plane EF, being parallel to the Original Plane AB.

COROL. I. Hence Original Planes, that are parallel, have the same Vanishing Line. For one Plane passing thro’ the Spectator’s Eye, parallel to them all, produces that Vanishing Line.

COROL. 2. All the Vanishing Points of Lines in parallel Planes, are in the Vanishing Line of those Planes. For the Lines that produce those Vanishing Points, (by Def. 5.) are all in the Plane that produces that Vanishing Line, (by this Def.)

COROL. 3. The Planes which produce the Vanishing Lines of two Original Planes, being parallel to the Original Planes, and passing both thro’ the Spectator’s Eye, (by this Def.) have their common Intersection passing thro’ the Spectator’s Eye, parallel to the Intersection of the Original Planes, and are inclined to each other in the same Angle as the Original Planes are. And hence,

COROL. 4. The Vanishing Point of the common Intersection of two Planes, is the Intersection of the Vanishing Lines of those Planes.

COROL. 5. The Vanishing Line, and Intersection of the same Original Plane, are parallel to each other. Because they are generated by parallel Planes. (By this Def. and Def. 4.)

I think this is all admirably clear, and shows how he treats lines and planes in a similar fashion. It also shows how his concepts of vanishing point and vanishing line are central to the way he is going to proceed.

Related Posts

Brook Taylor’s Linear Perspective

Who was Brook Taylor?

Method of Perspective

Related Works

Andersen, K., 1992, Brook Taylor’s Work on Linear Perspective: A Study of Taylor’s Role in the History of Perspective Geometry. Including Facsimiles of Taylor’s Two Books on Perspective. New York: Springer.

Andersen, K., 2006. The Geometry of an Art. The History of the Mathematical Theory of Perspective from Alberti to Monge. New York: Springer.