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 Amphora, showing Athena and Poseidon Kaeppelin et Compagnie

  • Curator’s description:

    Description

    The lithograph shows Athena on the left, holding her spear and wearing her helmet. To the right stands Poseidon, holding his trident. The print reproduces the decoration of a black-figure amphora then in the collection of the Duc de Luynes. It was plate LXXVIII 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 1870, as no. 205 in the Standard Series, framed with another print from Lenormant and de Witte of a black-figure illustration of Athena and two women; 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. 187. Cook and Wedderburn note (XXI.45 n. 1) that it carried its original number (205) on the edge of its frame, but the new number (187) 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 Contest of Athena and Poseidon, from one of the Last Vases of the Early Time, on the very edge of the transition'.

    Discussing the frame in his lecture on "Light" on 16 March 1870, Ruskin concentrated on the symbolism of Athena in the other print which it contained, noting only that this print 'does not bear on our present subject' (Lectures on Art, § 154 = XX.148).

  • Details

    Artist/maker
    Kaeppelin et Compagnie (active c. 1839 - c. 1860) (printer)
    A. Rey (active c. 1844 - c. 1858) (lithographer)
    Object type
    print
    Material and technique
    watercolour and bodycolour over lithograph on wove paper
    Dimensions
    218 x 182 mm (stone); 349 x 251 mm (sheet)
    Inscription
    Recto, all printed, around the image:
    top right: PL. LXXVIII.
    bottom left: Lith. de Kaeppelin et Cie.
    bottom right: A. Rey, sc.

    Recto, top left, in ink: Athena . B [the 'B' struck through] A.2

    Veros, 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.187.b
  • 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. 187

    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. LXXVIII

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), cat. Standard no. 205

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Reference Series Including Temporarily the First Section of the Standard Series (London: Smith, Elder, [1872]), cat. Reference no. 205

Location

    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

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