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John Russell, 1745–1806

A Drawing of a Part for the Map of the Moon

Additional Title(s):

Drawing of a Part for the Map of the Moon

Materials & Techniques:
Graphite on medium, slightly textured, cream wove paper
Sheet: 8 x 6 1/8 inches (20.3 x 15.6 cm)

Signed in graphite, under the image: "J. Russell delt ["t" in superscript] June 10th 1794"

Inscribed in graphite, under the image: "J. Russell delt ["t in superscript] June 10th 1794"; in ink at top: "Drawing of part for the Map of the Moon;" shorthand notations in graphite, right of center, and below, left of center.

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
landscape | maps | moon
Accessible by appointment in the Study Room [Request]
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IIIF Manifest:

John Russell is best known for his portraits in pastel (see cat. 15), but he was also a distinguished amateur lunar astronomer. Russell was struck by the beauty of the "gibbous Moon" when he first viewed it though a telescope as a young artist "conversant with Light, and Shade." Dissatisfied with existing lunar cartography, he used his skills of observation and pictorial representation to produce moon-maps which were highly praised by his scientific contemporaries. Russell was encouraged in his endeavors by Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society, who advocated having lunar maps drawn by artists rather than astronomers.

Using a six-foot reflecting telescope with a six-inch mirror made by the astronomer Sir William Herschel and a refracting Dolland telescope, Russell made a large number of detailed working sketches, which he annotated with notes, using John Bryom's system of shorthand. Many of these remarkable drawings, together with other material relating to Russell's astronomical work, are now in the collection of the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford. Cat. 57 records an area of the moon near the crater Mersenious. In 1795, thirty-one years after he embarked on his astronomical labors, Russell produced a pastel measuring four feet four inches by five feet, which was the largest and most accurate representation of the moon made up to that time. Russell also constructed a lunar relief globe, or "Selenographia," by pasting engraved pieces of paper onto a plain twelve-inch globe, with the intention of marketing it more widely, but the project was not a commercial success. Russell's studies culminated in Luna Planispheres, two prints illustrating the effects of direct and oblique illumination, engraved by the artist and published by his son after his death in 1806.

Gillian Forrester

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 75 cat. no. 57

Dare to Know: Prints and Drawings in the Age of Enlightenment (Harvard Art Museums, 2022-09-15 - 2023-01-16) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Apollo's Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2019-07-01 - 2019-09-22) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Line of Beauty : British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century (Yale Center for British Art, 2001-05-19 - 2001-08-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

The Pursuit of Happiness - A View of Life in Georgian England (Yale Center for British Art, 1977-04-19 - 1977-09-18) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Christie's sale catalogue : An important collection of English 18th century drawings and watercolours : 12 November 1968, Christie's, 1968, p. 55, lot 164, Auction Catalogues (YCBA)

Mia Fineman, Apollo's muse : the moon in the age of photography, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2019, pp. 33, 173, no. 7, QB595 .F56 2019 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Edouard Kopp, Dare to know : prints and drawings in the age of Enlightenment, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA, 2022, p. 311, NC87 .D37 2022 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

J. H. Plumb, The pursuit of happiness : a view of life in Georgian England : an exhibition selected from the Paul Mellon collection, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1977, pp. 52, 109, no. 99, N6766 Y34 1977 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Scott Wilcox, Line of beauty : British drawings and watercolors of the eighteenth century, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, p. 75, no. 57, NC228 W53 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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