© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Washington Allston, American (Georgetown, SC 1779 - 1843 Cambridge, MA)
Mensuration: Drawing to Illustrate a Geometry Problem (IV)
Other Titles
Former Title: Mensuration: Man Dancing on a Keg; verso: Mensuration: A Building
Work Type
c. 1796-1800
Physical Descriptions
Brown ink on ivory laid paper
23.7 x 18.8 cm (9 5/16 x 7 3/8 in.)
framed: 48.6 × 38.4 × 3.2 cm (19 1/8 × 15 1/8 × 1 1/4 in.)
To the artist's wife Martha Dana Allston at his death, 1843; to the Washington Allston Trust, 1862; permanent loan to the Fogg Art Museum, 1955
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Loan from The Washington Allston Trust
Object Number
European and American Art
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Label Text: The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820 , written 2017
When American artist Washington Allston began his studies at Harvard in 1796, he devoted his leisure time to painting and drawing. One of his classmates recalled that “even his mathematical manuscript . . . [had] the marks of his pencil, which he sometimes suffered to run riot in caricature.” These two notebook pages (8.1955.7, 8.1955.17) illustrating measurement problems feature a sample of these caricatures, likely inspired by popular prints from British satirists such as William Hogarth and James Gillray. According to Allston’s classmate, manuscript drawings like these caused the examiners at one of Harvard’s regular exhibitions of student work to share a laugh, “the cockles of their hearts being more rejoiced than they ever had been in the philosophy chamber.

Publication History

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Dana, "Allston at Harvard 1796 to 1800", Cambridge Historical Society. Publications, Proceedings for the Year 1943 (Cambridge, MA, 1948), vol. 29, ill. p.

Thomas W. Leavitt, "Washington Allston at Harvard", Harvard Alumni Bulletin (Cambridge, MA, April 21, 1956), vol. 58, no. 13, p. 551

Kenyon Castle Bolton, III, "The Drawings of Washington Allston: A Catalogue Raisonné" (Ph.D. Diss., Harvard University, 1977), no. 215A, reproduced in b/w fig. 537; verso, no. 215B, fig. 538

William H. Gerdts and Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., "A Man of Genius": The Art of Washington Allston (1779-1843), exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA, 1979), p. 202, cat. 71, ill.

Exhibition History

"A Man of Genius": The Art of Washington Allston (1779-1843), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 12/12/1979 - 02/03/1980; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 02/28/1980 - 04/27/1980

The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820, The Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow, 04/17/2018 - 07/15/2018

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu