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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Study for Detail of the Sarcophagus and Canopy of the Tomb of Mastino II della Scala at Verona John Ruskin

  • Curator’s description:

    Description

    The drawing shows the tomb of Mastino II della Scala, lord of Verona, who died on 3 June 1351 - although his tomb seems to have been erected around 1345. Placed amongst the other Scaliger tombs outside the church of Santa Maria Antica in Verona, the tomb takes the form of a high pedestal topped by a sarcophagus carying a recumbent figure of Mastino, with four angels at its corners. The pedestal is covered by an arched canopy which rests upon four columns, with each of its four gables decorated with sculpture and flanked by small pinnacles. Above is a tall pinnacle, topped by a figure of Mastino in full armour, on horseback. The tomb's lower levels are surrounded by a high wrought-iron fence. The drawing focusses on the sarcophagus and its canopy, seen square on from the north flank of Santa Maria Antica (i.e. from the south). The sarcophagus is clearly visible, decorated with reliefs of Saint John the Baptist, the Resurrection, and another male saint. Mastino's recumbent effigy can be seen lying upon the sarcophagus, head to the left, flanked by standing angels. The capitals supporting the canopy are Corinthian; its trefoil-headed edge is decorated with floral motifs in relief, and several small shields bearing the della Scala arms (a ladder). The bottom of the gable relief of Cain killing Abel can just be seen on the top edge. The detached head and shoulders of a statue seem to sit next to the base of the left-hand column.

    Cook and Wedderburn date the drawing to 1852 in their catalogue of Ruskin's work (no. 2065, XXXVIII.303), a proposal supported by Taylor who notes that the style and paper of this drawing are related to those of Reference Series no. 58, which Ruskin dated to 1852, and with which it has always been associated. It first appears in the Drawing School in the 1872 catalogue of the Standard and Reference Series, where, as no. 59, it was accompanied by other studies from the tomb of Mastino, and those of Can Grande and Cansignorio della Scala.

    Ruskin made much of the tomb, and it is depicted in several items in the collection: Reference Series no. 58 is a broad graphite study by Ruskin of the sarcophagus and canopy. Reference Series no. 129 is a graphite study by Burgess of the head of Mastino's effigy. Rudimentary Series no. 94 is a photograph of the entire tomb. Rudimentary Series no. 95 is a graphite study by Ruskin of the north gable. Rudimentary Series no. 96 is a photograph of the tomb, together with that of Cansignorio della Scala. A drawing by Burgess of a moulding on the sarcophagus was placed on the wall of the Drawing School (it is now no. R.140 in the collection of the Guild of Saint George). Casts from the tomb were also placed on the School's walls (now listed as no. WAL.17.a). A graphite drawing by Bunney of the sculpture in one of the gables was placed in frame no. 92 in the Rudimentary Series, replacing the item originally placed there by Ruskin.

    In "The Stones of Venice", Ruskin described the tomb as 'altogether exquisite as a work of art', its 'composition ... as perfect as its decoration refined' - marred, however, by the inclusion of the figure of Fortitude (one of the virtues attributed to Mastino) along with the religious figures on the sarcophagus, demonstrating 'traces of erring ambition', related to the beginnings of the della Scala family's decline in Mastino's reign (vol. III, ch. ii, § 55 = XI.89).

  • Details

    Artist/maker
    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
    Object type
    drawing
    Material and technique
    graphite and watercolour on wove paper
    Dimensions
    459 x 360 mm
    Associated place
    Inscription
    Recto:
    on the entablature along the bottom edge, as part of the drawing: IVRA DABAT POPVLIS [...]R[...]OS TA [...]
    on the right edge, graphite, Ruskin's hand:
    11 cm from top: bases of | top bor[...]
    14 cm from top: [...]| wind[...] | [...] ca[...]
    19 cm from top: base of | niche
    21 cm from bottom: gable | [...]
    16 cm from bottom: gr[...] | hole |

    Verso:
    Left edge, middle, ink, in large letters running up the sheet: 119
    Bottom left, in graphite, within an oval: Ref.59
    Towards the bottom, right, the Ruskin School's stamp
    Provenance

    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
    1
    Accession no.
    WA.RS.REF.059
  • Subject terms allocated by curators:

    Subjects

  • References in which this object is cited include:

    References

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Reference Series Including Temporarily the First Section of the Standard Series (London: Smith, Elder, [1872]), cat. Reference no. 59

    Taylor, Gerald, ‘John Ruskin: A Catalogue of Drawings by John Ruskin in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford’, 7 fascicles, 1998, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, no. 041

    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. 59

Location

    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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