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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The Court of the Ducal Palace, Venice John Ruskin

  • Curator’s description:

    Description

    The drawing shows the courtyard of the Ducal Palace in Venice, looking from the south-west corner. On the left is the facade of the Porticato Foscari, with the domes of Saint Mark's rising above it, and the monument to Francesco Maria I della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, on its right (Giovanni Bandini, 1587, installed in 1625); Antonio Rizzo's Scala dei Giganti (1484-1501) appears just left of centre, and his eastern courtyard facade (1483-98) occupies the right-hand half of the drawing. In the courtyard are two bronze well-heads, that in the foreground cast by Niccolò dei Conti in 1556, that behind it by Alfonso Alberghetti in 1559.

    Stylistically, the drawing belongs to the early 1840s, when Ruskin was producing graphite drawings on coloured paper highlighted with yellow bodycolour in imitation of David Roberts's drawings. He was in Venice from 6 to 17 May 1841, and noted that he drew the Scala dei Giganti over that period. In his own catalogue entries for the drawing, he dates it to 1841.

    The drawing was first listed in the Oxford collection in 1871, when Ruskin catalogued it as no. 64 in the Reference Series, alongside other drawings of Venice, and of Verona and Abbeville.

    Ruskin also exhibited it in his Verona exhibition in February 1870, noting that it perhaps gave 'some characters which more finished drawing would lose' (no. 41 = XIX.457). In an epilogue to "Modern Painters" in 1883, Ruskin wrote how some of the pencil sketches he made at this time 'though full of weaknesses and vulgarities, have also much good in them ... and all of them are of historical interest in their accuracy of representation'; this, and Reference Series no. 65, were two of them (Modern Painters, Epilogue, § 1 = IV.343; cf. Praterita, vol. II, § 56 = XXXV.295-6). Similarly, in his lecture on "autarkeia" in art and science of 22 February 1872, he described how the drawing was made when he was young, and took pleasure in sketching - whereas, now knowing what drawing should be, the effort of trying to meet his own standards tired him out in an hour (The Eagle's Nest, § 84 = XXII.183-4).

    The Ducal Palace was, for Ruskin, the quintessential example of Venetian Gothic, and is referred to extensively in his writings. He considered it 'a mode of all perfection': 'It would be impossible, I believe, to invent a more magnificent arrrangement of all that is in building most dignified and most fair.' (Stones of Venice, ch. iii, § 9 = VIII.111.)

    CHECK Repr. Magazine of Art, April 1900

  • Details

    Artist/maker
    John Ruskin (1819 - 1900)
    Object type
    drawing
    Material and technique
    graphite, watercolour, bodycolour and pen and ink on pale grey wove paper
    Dimensions
    344 x 465 mm
    Associated place
    Inscription
    Recto, bottom right, in graphite: Interior Court Ducal Palace Venice

    Verso, top, left of centre, 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.064
  • 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. 64

    Taylor, Gerald, ‘John Ruskin: A Catalogue of Drawings by John Ruskin in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford’, 7 fascicles, 1998, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, no. 009

    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. 64

    Ruskin, John, ‘Praeterita: Outlines of Scenes and Thoughts Perhaps Worthy of Memory in My Past Life’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 35

    Ruskin, John, ‘The Works of John Ruskin’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), vol. IV, pl. 2, f.p. 40

    Ruskin, John, ‘Modern Painters’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 3-7

    Ruskin, John, ‘The Eagle's Nest: Ten Lectures on the Relation of Natural Science to Art, Given Before the University of Oxfored, in Lent Term, 1872’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 22

Location

    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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