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 part of the Genealogy of Christ from the Book of Kells Day & Son

  • Curator’s description:


    The print depicts a single folio from an illuminated manuscript. The text is part of the genealogy of Christ, and reads: Ioseph | Qui fuit Heli | Qui fuit Mathat | Qui fuit Levi | Qui fuit Melchi | Qui fuit Ianne | Qui fuit Ioseph | Qui fuit Mathathię | Qui fuit Amos | Qui fuit Nahum | Qui fuit [H]esli | Qui fuit Nagge | Qui fuit Mahath. Each inital letter 'Q' of 'Qui' is decorated with interlace to form a single border down the left of the page. The text itself is decorated with flowers and coloured flourishes, and two seated men serve as elaborate line-endings. The top border is provided by a broad panel of interlaced decoration, with the head and feet of a man protruding above and below the middle.

    The manuscript is the Book of Kells, no. 58 in the Library of Trinity College Dublin, produced in Iona or Kells (or both) at some time in the late eighth or early ninth century. The plate reproduces folio 200 recto, which contains the text of Luke III.23-26. It is plate 8 in J.O. Westwood, Fac-similes of the Miniatures & Ornaments of Anglo-Saxon and Irish Manuscripts, London (Bernard Quaritch): 1868. It was removed from Ruskin's copy of the work, now in the collection of the Ruskin Foundation at the Ruskin Library, Lancaster. This may be the copy mentioned in Fors Claivgera (lett. 63, § 23 = XXVIII.559), bought from 'Professor Westwood' for £50, 'For copies of the Book of Kells, bought of a poor artist. Very beautiful, and good for gifts to St. George.'

    The drawing was first recorded in the collection only in 1906, when Cook and Wedderburn listed it in frame 197 of the Reference Series, where it accompanied two more plates from the same work, depicting another leaf from the Book of Kells and an eighth- or ninth-century evangelary at Saint Gall, and a series of lithographs of letters from manuscripts in Monte Cassino.

    In his lecture on 'The Flamboyant Architecture of the vallery of the Somme', Ruskin described how interlace work such as that in the Book of Kells was not restricted to Scandinavian and Insular art: 'the same instinct is manifest in the living art of the whole world ... [it] belongs ... as much to Indian, to Arabian, to Egyptian, and to Byzantine work, as to that of Norway and Ireland; - nay, it existed just as strongly in the Greek mind in its best times ...' (§ 22 = XIX.258). Lecturing on "The Pleasures of Faith" on 25 October 1884, Ruskin described the Book as a quintessential object of Celtic art: 'Perfect in its peculiar manner, and exulting in the faultless practice of a narrow skill, it remained century after century incapable alike of inner growth, or foreign instruction; inimitable, yet incorrigible; marvellous, yet despicable, to its death. Despicable, I mean, only in the limitation of its capacity, not in its quality or nature.' (Pleasures of England, § 34 = XXXIII.440.)

  • Details

    Day & Son (1845 - 1867) (printer)
    W. R. Tymms (active c. 1868) (lithographer)
    after John Obadiah Westwood (1805 - 1893)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    colour lithograph on stiff wove paper
    317 x 244 mm (stone); 572 x 378 mm (sheet)
    Around the image, lithographed:
    top right: PL. 8
    bottom, centre: PORTION OF THE GENEALOGY OF JESUS CHRIST, (VIIt.h. Century) | From the Book of Kells, Trinity College, Dublin. | Day & Son, Lithograohers to the Queen, London.

    Presumably presented by John Ruskin to the Ruskin Drawing School (University of Oxford); first recorded in the Ruskin Drawing School in 1906; transferred from the Ruskin Drawing School to the Ashmolean Museum c.1949

    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: 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. Reference no. 197

    Ruskin, John, ‘Fors Clavigera’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 27-29


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