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 Hermes, Athena, Heracles and Zeus fighting against Giants L. Letronne

  • Curator’s description:


    The lithograph shows four Greek gods and heroes fighting two giants. They are, from the left of the image, Hermes, Athena, Heracles and Zeus. It reproduces the decoration of a black-figure hydria then in the collection of a monsieur Thierry at Suippe (Marne). The print was plate II in the first volume of Lenormant and de Witte's "Elite des monuments céramographiques", published in 1844. 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 1871, when it appeared as no. 23 I in the Educational Series, placed in Case II, "Elementary Illustrations of Greek Design". It remained in the same position, although renumbered as no. 47, in the 1874 catalogue of the series, but does not appear in Ruskin's 1878 reorganisation of the series.

    In his instructions for the Educational Series, Ruskin described how the depiction embodied the 'contest between designs representing the Good and Evil powers': Heracles was manly human power, Athena the air, wisdom and strength, and Hermes the cloud and the force which ordered and moved the heavens. (He wrote about the symbolism of Athena at length in "The Queen of the Air".)

  • Details

    L. Letronne (active c. 1844) (printer)
    A. Rey (active c. 1844 - c. 1858) (lithographer)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    watercolour and bodycolour over lithograph on wove paper
    118 x 269 mm (plate); 226 x 338 mm (sheet)
    The printed lettering has been carefully scratched off the print; it should read:
    top right: PL. II.
    just below the lower left corner of the image: A. Rey sc.
    just below the lower right corner of the image: Lith de L Letronne

    Recto, top, left of centre, in ink: E Athena B. 1.

    Verso, top 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 the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. 23.I

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 47

    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. I, pl. II

    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. 47


    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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