The Elements of Drawing, John Ruskin’s teaching collection at Oxford

The Elements of Drawing, John Ruskin’s teaching collection at Oxford

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Lithograph of Saint George on horseback, from Dürer's Prayer-Book of the Emperor Maximilian Johann Nepomuk Strixner

  • Curator’s description:


    The print shows outline drawings decorating the left, top and bottom borders of a printed page, together with the text they illustrate. On the top are a series of flourishes. On the left, Saint George is shown on horseback, fully armoured with his visor closed, holding his lance in one hand. The dragon is curled beneath his horse's feet. In the bottom border are a skull, rib-cage and a few other bones, a small dragon, the plaque bearing Dürer's monogram, and some flourishes.

    There is some confusion over this item and Rudimentary Series no. 68, to which it is related. In the Educational Series section of the "Catalogue of Examples", Ruskin lists: '38. "St. George." Facsimile of pen drawing with free hand, by Dürer. '38 B. "St. George with the dead dragon", from the same book. (Now at Munich.)' Cook and Wedderburn gloss this entry with a note: 'See Educational Series, No. 232 ... and Rudimentary Series, No. 68 ...; but the example is no longer in the School. The book at Munich is the Book of Prayers decorated by Dürer in 1515 for the Emperor Maximilian; it is in the Royal Library ...' (XXI.67 n. 4). Cook and Wedderburn later identify the source of the prints as the facsimile published by Georg Franz in 1850, the stones having been drawn by Johann Nepomuk Strixner (XX.136 n. 1). James Dearden has kindly informed me that Ruskin owned several copies of the work, one of which he gave to the Guild of Saint George (Catalogue of the Saint George's Museum = XXX.251); another copy is now in the collection of the Ruskin Foundation. From the descriptions in the "Catalogue of Examples", it seems likely that Educational no. 38 was the drawing on folio 23 of the Prayer-Book, showing Saint George on Horseback, whilst no 38 B was folio 9, depicting Saint George lifting the Dragon which he has killed.

    However, Educational Series no. 232 (in the 1874 catalogue) is described only as '232. St. George, armed. Free pen sketch. (Dürer). E[ngraving]', and Rudimentary Series no. 68 (in all printed editions) is 'R 68 St. George. Facsimile (modern) of Dürer's pen sketch. A. Dürer.' Assuming Cook and Wedderburn were correct in identifying these two objects with the items listed in the "Catalogue of Examples" - and there is no reason to doubt them - then it seems most likely Educational no. 232 was folio 23 of the Prayer-Book, as that shows Saint George on horseback in full plate armour; Rudimentary no. 68 was therefore folio 9.

    In summary: Educational Series no. 38 in the "Catalogue of Examples" was moved to Educational Series no. X.3.F in 1871, being renumbered 232 in 1874; this was folio 23 of the Prayer-Book, and is plate 16 in the 1850 facsimile. Educational Series no. 38 B in the "Catalogue of Examples" was moved to Rudimentary Series no. 68 by 1872; this was folio 9 of the Prayer-Book, and is plate 4 in the facsimile.

    As the print can no longer be found, its place is taken here by a surrogate, from the copy of the 1850 facsimile in the collection of the Ruskin Foundation.

    In the Catalogue of Examples, this print was placed amongst a series of Dürer prints. In 1871, it had moved to Case 10, "Illustrations of Etching, Engraving, and Outline Drawing", where it again accompanied other Dürers, as well as Holbeins and enlargements from the work of both artists.

    In the fifth of his first series of Oxford lectures, devoted to 'Line' and delivered on 9 March 1870, Ruskin described how the prayer-book drawings embodied Dürer's status as 'The only man who can put his pen to full speed, and yet retain command over every separate line of it' (Lectures on Art, § 144 = XX.136).

  • Details

    Johann Nepomuk Strixner (1782 - 1855) (lithographer)
    after Albrecht Dürer (1471 - 1528)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    lithograph in purple, red, black and gold ink, on wove paper
    surrogate: 328 x 240 mm (sheet)
    Recto, all printed:
    within the print, on a plaque in the bottom margin, Dürer's characteristic 'AD' monogram
    outside the print, top centre: 16.
    outside the print, bottom right: N. Strixner fecit.

    Presumably presented by John Ruskin to the Ruskin Drawing School (University of Oxford), 1875; listed in 1906 as no longer in the Drawing School.

    No. of items
    Accession no.
  • Subject terms allocated by curators:


  • References in which this object is cited include:


    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. X.3.F

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 232

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), cat. Educational no. 38

    Ruskin, John, ‘The Ruskin Art Collection at Oxford: Catalogues, Notes and Instructions’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 21, cat. Educational no. 232


    • not found

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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