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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Justice. Death, Cupid, and Fortune Albrecht Dürer

  • Curator’s description:


    The print is entitled "Justice. Death, Cupid and Fortune. Line Engraving" in Ruskin's catalogues; from this, it seems most likely to be the engraving called "The Temptation of the Idler", also known as "The Dream of the Doctor". It shows a man asleep, sitting on a bench and leaning against cushions next to a large tiled stove. A devil uses bellows to blow thoughts into the sleeping man's ear (Death, nowadays simply called the Devil); a putto (Cupid) tries to walk on stilts in the bottom left corner; and a naked woman, standing in the foreground, holds out a pointing hand (Fortune, nowadays identified as Venus).

    Ruskin first catalogued the print in 1871, in the first edition of the Educational catalogue, where it was no. 31 D, part of Case III, "Illustrations of Northern Gothic, with its resultant Art", alongside several other Dürers. By 1874 (Educational catalogue, 2nd ed.), he had moved it to Case V, "Elementary Illustrations of Landscape" (as no. 123) - perhaps to keep it with the other Dürers which surrounded it, as there is no landscape in the print. Cook and Wedderburn (XXI.86 n. 3) noted that the frame was empty in 1906, and the example reproduced here is a surrogate from the Douce Bequest in the Ashmolean Museum. This particular impression is of state 'a' (the state of Ruskin's print is impossible to identify).

  • Details

    Albrecht Dürer (1471 - 1528) (engraver)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    engraving on laid paper
    surrogate: 185 x 117 mm (plate)
    In the print, engraved, bottom, centre, Dürer's characteristic monogram

    Presented by John Ruskin to the Ruskin Drawing School (University of Oxford), 1875; listed in 1906 as having been removed from the Drawing School.

    No. of items
    Accession no.
  • Subject terms allocated by curators:


  • References in which this object is cited include:


    Schoch, Rainer, Mende, Matthias, and Scherbaum, Anna, Albrecht Dürer: das druckgraphische Werk, 3 (Munich/London/New York: Prestel, 2001-2004), no. 18

    Meder, Josef, Dürer-Katalog, ein handbuch über Albrecht Dürers stiche, radierungen, Holzschnitte, deren zustände, ausgaben und wasserzeichen (Wien: Gilhofer & Ranschburg, 1932), no. 70

    Bartsch, Adam von, Le Peintre Graveur, 21 vols (Vienna: J. von Degen, 1803-1821), cat. vol. VII, p. 91, no. 76

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. 31.D

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 123

    Hollstein, F. W. H., German Engravings Etchings and Woodcuts, ca. 1400 - 1700 (Amsterdam: Menno Hertzberger, 1954-), cat. vol. VII, p. 64, no. 70

    Bartsch, Adam von, The Illustrated Bartsch, founding editor Walter L. Strauss, general editor John T. Spike (New York: Abaris Books, 1978-), no. 1001.76

    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. Educational no. 123


    • not found

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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