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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Print of the Decoration on a Greek Hydria, showing Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, and Latona, representing the Course of a Summer's Day P. Bineteau

  • Curator’s description:


    The lithograph shows a series of deities. On the left, Apollo stands in a small chariot; the four horses which draw it stand to the right. Beside him is Artemis, holding a lyre, then Hermes behind the horses and holding a flower; and Leto stands by the horses's heads. The print reproduces the decoration of a black-figure hydria, then in the collection of J. de Witte. It was plate L in the second volume of Lenormant and de Witte's "Elite des monuments céramographiques", published in 1857. It was presumably taken from Ruskin's copy of the work now preserved in the Ruskin Library (inventory no. 1996B2621), which is missing many of its plates.

    The print was first catalogued by Ruskin in 1870, as no. 208 in the Standard Series, framed with two more prints from Lenormant and de Witte, of a black-figure Hermes releasing Io from Argos, and of a red-figure Hermes; they formed part of a series 'arranged chiefly with the view of showing the change in Greek conception of deity'. It retained its number in the 1871 catalogue of the Standard and Reference Series but, by the time Cook and Wedderburn were compiling their edition of the catalogues (published in 1906), the frame had been moved to no. 190. Cook and Wedderburn note (XXI.45 n. 1) that it carried its original number (208) on the edge of its frame, but the new number (190) on the face. Presumably, it was easier to engrave and attach a new ivory label on the edge of the frame than it was to remove or gild over the painted number on the face.

    According to Ruskin, the change in the ancient Greek conception of deity took place between the sixth and fourth centuries BC, and was marked by a development from conceiving of the gods as embodiments of physical forces to individual, characterised intelligences; from active to passive figures; and from grotesque to deliberately-selected beautiful depictions. At the same time, ceramic decoration changed from painting black figures on the red ground to painting a black background, letting the red ground show through in the figures themselves - though this soon led to careless execution. He believed the best vases were red-figure vases produced just after the transition (Catalogue of Examples, pp. 25-27; Standard and Reference catalogue, pp. 28-30).

    Ruskin described the print as showing 'the course of a summer's day', and he expanded upon this in his lecture on "Light" on 16 March 1870: Apollo was 'the sun not yet risen', Artemis 'the moon, ascending before him', Hermes, 'the cumulus cloud at mid-day' and Leto 'going down as the evening, lighted from the right by the sun, now sunk; and with her feet reverted, signifying the reluctance of the departing day'. He also included a woodcut of the print (Lectures on Art, § 156 = XX.149-150; figure 5 = XX.151).

  • Details

    P. Bineteau (active c. 1857 - c. 1858) (printer)
    A. Rey (active c. 1844 - c. 1858) (lithographer)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    watercolour and bodycolour over lithograph on wove paper
    163 x 288 mm (stone); 217 x 349 mm (sheet)
    Recto, all printed, around the image:
    top left: T. II.
    top right: PL. L.
    bottom left: Lith. de Bineteau
    bottom right: A.Rey,sc.

    top left, in graphite (partially erased): Wooden [?] [...]
    top, right of centre, the Ruskin School's stamp

    Presented by John Ruskin to the Ruskin Drawing School (University of Oxford), 1875; 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, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), cat. Standard no. 208

    Lenormant, Charles, and Jean de Witte, Elite des monuments céramographiques: Matériaux pour l'histoire des religions et des moeurs de l'antiquité, 4 vols in 8 (Paris: Leleux, 1844-1861), vol. II, pl. L

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Reference Series Including Temporarily the First Section of the Standard Series (London: Smith, Elder, [1872]), cat. Reference no. 208

    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. 190

    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, figure 5 = XX.151


    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

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