Casting light on Turner painting

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YOUR piece on Turner’s painting ‘The festival of the opening of the vintage, Macon’ was intriguing, so I went to study it in the Graves Art Gallery.

The sun’s disc is about the size of a 1p coin in this large painting of 1803 and bears no sign of any physical features. In 1801 the astronomer Herschel wrote that the sun’s surface had ‘openings, shallows, ridges, nodules, corrugations, indentations and pores’. The article said Turner was probably aware of this and incorporated such physical features in his depictions of the sun, being particularly obvious in this painting. This just isn’t so.

I suspect that this claim stems from an essay in the exhibition catalogue for the Turner exhibition at the Turner Gallery, Margate, by biographer James Hamilton. However, I believe he actually suggested that Turner began portraying the sun as a solid body after learning of Herschel’s work, and this may be what is exemplified in this painting. This may or may not be the case.

I think Turner would have had many opportunities to see the sun’s disc through cloud and mist during poor weather, so he is likely to have known that it was a disc without the aid of scientific findings or instruments. Nevertheless, it remains possible that Herschel’s work sparked off Turner’s practice of representing the sun as a disc.

BW Jervis, Button Hill, S11

GPs know best?

Am I missing something? Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley says GPs know what their patients need and should, therefore, be handed control of the whole NHS budget. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan-Smith says GPs can’t be trusted to make an accurate assessment of their own patients’ needs for incapacity benefit and, therefore, the decisions must be made by an independent person.

Howard Knight

Sick of calls

does anybody know the name of the company which phones you up, day and night, and says nothing for a long while? I’m sick of getting these calls and wish to trace who is responsible. Also I would like to know how they get my number as I am ex-directory.

C Grant, Sheffield