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 Poseidon P. Bineteau

  • Curator’s description:

    Description

    The lithograph shows Poseidon, holding his trident, astride a sea-horse. It reproduces the decoration of a black-figure cylix in the British Museum. It was plate I 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. 203 in the Standard Series, framed with another print from Lenormant and de Witte of a red-figure illustration of Neptune with a young man and young woman; 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. 185. Cook and Wedderburn note (XXI.45 n. 1) that it carried its original number (203) on the edge of its frame, but the new number (185) 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.

    Ruskin described the print as showing Poseidon 'as the physical power of the sea': the sea-horse's tail represented the 'force of undulation', Poseidon's hair both old age and foam.

    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).

  • Details

    Artist/maker
    P. Bineteau (active c. 1857 - c. 1858) (printer)
    A. Rey (active c. 1844 - c. 1858) (lithographer)
    Object type
    print
    Material and technique
    watercolour and bodycolour over lithograph on wove paper
    Dimensions
    105 x 227 mm (stone); 250 x 349 mm (sheet)
    Inscription
    All printed, around the image:
    top left: T.III.
    top right: PL. I.
    bottom left corner: Lith. de Bineteau.
    bottom right corner: A.R.

    Recto, in manuscript:
    right, above centre, in ink, written down the page: This . 15. and 50
    just to the left, in graphite, written up the page: top
    bottom right, in ink, written down the page: 1
    top centre, in graphite: Top

    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.185.a
  • Subject terms allocated by curators:

    Subjects

  • References in which this object is cited include:

    References

    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. 185

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), cat. Standard no. 203

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Reference Series Including Temporarily the First Section of the Standard Series (London: Smith, Elder, [1872]), cat. Reference no. 203

    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. I

Location

    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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