The Elements of Drawing, John Ruskin’s teaching collection at Oxford

The Elements of Drawing, John Ruskin’s teaching collection at Oxford

Ruskin's Educational series, 1st ed. (1871)

Ruskin's first catalogue of 300 works for the instruction of undergraduates and his notes on the use of particular examples.

Educational 1 cover

Ruskin's Catalogues: 1 object

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Ruskin assembled a diverse collection of artworks for his drawing school in Oxford, including watercolours by J.M.W. Turner and drawings by Ruskin himself.  He taught students to draw as a way of educating them in how to look at art and the world around them.  

Ruskin divided his Teaching Collection into four main series: Standard, Reference, Educational and Rudimentary. Each item was placed in a numbered frame, arranged in a set of cabinets, so that they all had a specific position in the Collection (although Ruskin often moved items about as his ideas changed). 

When incorporated into the Ashmolean’s collection in the last century, the works were removed from the frames and the sequence was lost.  Here, Ruskin's original catalogues, notes and instructions - in his chosen order and in his own words - are united with images of the works and links to modern curatorial descriptions.

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The Virgin with a Sceptre and Crown of Stars Albrecht Dürer

  • Ruskin text

    74. The Madonna with crown of stars. Line engraving. (Dürer).
  • Curator’s description:


    The Virgin stands on a crescent moon, holding Christ in her arms (he holds an apple). She holds a sceptre, and wears a high crown topped with stars. Light streams out from behind her in an aureole. This reflects the 'woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars', often identified with the Virgin, of Revelation XII:1.

    The print was first catalogued by Ruskin in 1870, when it was placed next to George Allen's highly-enlarged study of the Virgin's crown (now no. 231 in the Educational Series), and accompanied other Dürer prints and copies (Catalogue of Examples, Educational Series no. 37). By the following year, when Ruskin preprared the first Educational Series catalogue, it had moved to no. 33, where it accompanied other Dürers and Holbeins in Case III, "Illustrations of Northern Gothic, with its resultant Art". In the second Educational catalogue, of 1874, it occupied the same position - although renumbered as 74 - but many of the Dürers had been replaced by Burne-Jones's "Cupid and Psyche" drawings.

  • Details

    Albrecht Dürer (1471 - 1528) (engraver)
    Object type
    Material and technique
    engraving on laid paper
    119 x 76 mm (sheet)
    In the print, engraved:
    upper right: 1516
    lower right, Dürer's characteristic 'AD' monogram

    Verso, all in graphite (recent):
    top centre: 24
    just below, left: Rus. Ed. 74
    just below, centred: B 32 [tick] H 37

    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, ‘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. 74

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), cat. Educational no. 37

    Bartsch, Adam von, Le Peintre Graveur, 21 vols (Vienna: J. von Degen, 1803-1821), cat. vol. VII, p. 53, no. 32

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Smith, Elder, 1871), cat. Educational no. 33

    Hollstein, F. W. H., German Engravings Etchings and Woodcuts, ca. 1400 - 1700 (Amsterdam: Menno Hertzberger, 1954-), cat. vol. VII, p. 32, no. 37

    Bartsch, Adam von, The Illustrated Bartsch, founding editor Walter L. Strauss, general editor John T. Spike (New York: Abaris Books, 1978-), no. 1001.32

    Meder, Josef, Dürer-Katalog, ein handbuch über Albrecht Dürers stiche, radierungen, Holzschnitte, deren zustände, ausgaben und wasserzeichen (Wien: Gilhofer & Ranschburg, 1932), no. 37

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Educational Series (London: Spottiswoode, 1874), cat. Educational no. 74

    Schoch, Rainer, Mende, Matthias, and Scherbaum, Anna, Albrecht Dürer: das druckgraphische Werk, 3 (Munich/London/New York: Prestel, 2001-2004), no. 81


    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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