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 Cylix, showing Hermes Fourquemin

  • Curator’s description:

    Description

    The lithograph shows Hermes running, holding a lyre and his caduceus. It reproduces the decoration of a red-figure cylix which had been published by the Institut Archéologique. It was plate LXXXIX in the third volume of Lenormant and de Witte's "Elite des monuments céramographiques", published in 1858. 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 another black-figure illustration of Apollo, Artemis, Hermes and Leto; 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 flying cloud - Hermes'', and he expanded upon this in his lecture on "Light" on 16 March 1870, describing him as 'the floating cumulus cloud, almost shapeless (as you see him at this distance), with the tortoise-shell lyre in his hand, barred with black, and a fleece of white cloud, not level but oblique, under his feet'. He also included a woodcut of the print (Lectures on Art, § 156 = XX.150-151; figure 6 = XX.152). He also told his students to compare the representation to the print of Selene amongst clouds, no. 42 in the Educational Series (Catalogue of Examples, p. 46; first Educational catalogue, p. 36; second Educational catalogue, p. 35).

  • Details

    Artist/maker
    Fourquemin (active c. 1835 - c. 1861) (printer)
    Alexis Louis Pierre Housselin (active c. 1858 - c. 1881) (lithographer)
    Object type
    print
    Material and technique
    watercolour and bodycolour over lithograph on wove paper
    Dimensions
    126 mm diameter (stone); 232 x 243 mm (sheet)
    Inscription
    Recto, all printed, around the image:
    top left: T. III.
    top right: PL. LXXXIX.
    bottom left: Lith. de Fourquemin
    bottom right: A.Housselin sc.

    Verso, bottom 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.190.c
  • 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. 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. III, pl. LXXXIX

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874)

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), cat. Standard 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 6 = XX.152

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871)

Location

    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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