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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Apuleia in search of Apuleius (unpublished Plate from the Liber Studiorum) Turner

  • Curator’s description:


    The scene is set in an open landscape, with a small tree in the foreground on the left edge, and a group of larger trees towards the right. A broad river runs beneath a long bridge with a tower in its middle behind and between the trees, whilst several hills can be seen in the distance beyond; these rise up to the right, where a group of partially ruined Italianate and neo-classical buildings can be seen behind a low arch. Apuleia, her head partially covered by a veil, stands talking with a group of standing women; more women sit below the left-hand tree, amongst their sheep.

    The precise identity of no. 303 in the Standard Series as listed in the "Catalogue of Examples", 'study for composition', which seems to have become no. 173 in the final catalogue of the Rudimentary Series, '"Composition." Sunset', is unclear. Cook & Wedderburn (vol. XXI, p. 6) identify it as 'probably the unpublished plate of "Apuleia in search of Apuleius"'. Hewison, in his catalogue of the Rudimentary Series, notes that Ruskin entitled it "Devotion" in his draft list of objects for the series.

    By the time Cook and Wedderburn compiled their edition of Ruskin's catalogues (1906), this particular print was no longer in the Teaching Collection. The example catalogued here is a surrogate, taken from the Ashmolean's collection; the very smooth paper on which it is printed suggests it is one of the later impressions listed by Finberg.

    The print is based upon Turner's oil painting of the same name, described by Finberg as being in 'the National Gallery, Turner Bequest, No. 495', exhibited at the British Institution in 1814 where it was awarded a premium of 100 guineas as the best landscape of the year. The veil over Apuleia's head indicates that this the final proof state (Finberg's 'f'); the plate was never published.

    In his "Lectures on Art" (§ 165 = XX.159), Ruskin drew attention to the way in which the white paper is made to appear transparent, representing the distant evening light.

  • Details

    after Turner (Joseph Mallord William Turner) (1775 - 1851) (designer, etcher, artist)
    William Say (1768 - 1834) (engraver)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    etching, aquatint and mezzotint on paper
    surrogate: 208 x 292 mm (approx., plate)

    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, The Ruskin Art Collection at Oxford: Catalogue of the Rudimentary Series, in the Arrangement of 1873, ed. Robert Hewison (London: Lion and Unicorn Press, 1984), cat. Rudimentary no. 173

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), cat. Standard no. 303

    Finberg, Alexander J., The History of Turner's Liber Studiorum: With a New Catalogue Raisonné (London: Ernest Benn, 1924), no. 72

    Ruskin, John, Instructions in Practice of Elementary Drawing, Arranged with Reference to the First Series of Examples in the Drawings Schools of the University of Oxford (n.p., [1872]), cat. Rudimentary no. 173

    Ruskin, John, Instructions in the Preliminary Exercises Arranged for the Lower Drawing-School (London: Smith, Elder, 1872), cat. Rudimentary no. 173

    Ruskin, John, Instructions in the Preliminary Exercise Arranged For the Lower Drawing-School (London: Spottiswoode, 1873), cat. Rudimentary no. 173

    Ruskin, John, ‘Lectures on Art: Delivered Before the University of Oxford in Hilary Term, 1870’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 20


    • not found

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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