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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Photograph of a Study of the Head of an Old Man by Leonardo da Vinci Anonymous

  • Curator’s description:

    Description

    The original drawing has been trimmed closely around the man's profile (cutting off the top of his head); the photgraph reproduces the paper which has been added on the top and right to make the sheet up to a more pleasing shape. Although it is in fact monochrome, the photograph has been toned to match the colour of the original sheet.

    Although it recalls several drawings of similar profiles by Leonardo, the drawing currently remains unidentifiable.

    First listed in the Teaching Collection in 1870, when Ruskin included it in frame 12 of the Standard Series in the "Catalogue of Examples", along with a photograph of a drawing of the head of a child by Leonardo or Boltraffio. In his catalogue entry, Ruskin praised the management of light and shade using crayon (i.e. chalk) in this drawing and in the child's head; but he considered that 'in points of character ... they are wholly deficient', as Leonardo was only capable of seeing and reproducing surface appearances - rendering the old man's head 'essentially Dutch in treatment'. In the catalogues of the Rudimentary Series, they served as standards for the study of chiaroscuro 'With pencil or chalk on white paper, reinforced with black.' In the "Lectures on Art", they again served as examples of shading within an outline - Ruskin noting that, even where passages were only touched in, or were lost in shadows, the outlines remained 'inimitably subtle, unaccusably true' (§§ 161-162 = XX.155-156).

  • Details

    Artist/maker
    Anonymous (photographer)
    after Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519)
    Object type
    photograph
    Material and technique
    carbon print
    Dimensions
    143 x 98 mm
    Inscription
    Recto, on the drawing, reproduced in the photograph:
    bottom left, a blind-stamped collector's mark: T.L [Lugt 2445, for Thomas Lawrence]

    Verso, bottom right, in graphite: St. 12 lower
    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.STD.012.b
  • Subject terms allocated by curators:

    Subjects

  • References in which this object is cited include:

    References

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of Examples Arranged for Elementary Study in the University Galleries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1870), cat. Standard no. 12

    Ruskin, John, Instructions in Practice of Elementary Drawing, Arranged with Reference to the First Series of Examples in the Drawings Schools of the University of Oxford (n.p., [1872])

    Ruskin, John, Catalogue of the Reference Series Including Temporarily the First Section of the Standard Series (London: Smith, Elder, [1872]), cat. Standard no. 12

    Ruskin, John, The Ruskin Art Collection at Oxford: Catalogue of the Rudimentary Series, in the Arrangement of 1873, ed. Robert Hewison (London: Lion and Unicorn Press, 1984), p. 207

    Ruskin, John, Instructions in the Preliminary Exercises Arranged for the Lower Drawing-School (London: Smith, Elder, 1872)

    Ruskin, John, Instructions in the Preliminary Exercise Arranged For the Lower Drawing-School (London: Spottiswoode, 1873)

    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. Standard no. 12

    Ruskin, John, ‘Lectures on Art: Delivered Before the University of Oxford in Hilary Term, 1870’, Edward T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, eds, The Works of John Ruskin: Library Edition, 39 (London: George Allen, 1903-1912), 20

Location

    • Western Art Print Room

Position in Ruskin’s Collection

Ruskin's Catalogues

  • Ruskin's Catalogue of Examples (1870)

    12. Studies of Heads. (Lionardo.) Photograph.

    Good examples of his sketching, and very beautiful in management of crayon for shade. In points of character, whether of childhood or age, they are wholly deficient, for Lionardo only sees external form; and this old man’s head, in spite of its laborious delineation of apparently characteristic points, is essentially Dutch in treatment, and represents indeed wrinkles and desiccations, but not characters. Holbein, Reynolds, or Titian could give more character with ten lines than Lionardo could with a day’s labour: and throughout his treatise his conventional directions for the representation of age and youth, beauty and strength, are in the last degree singular and ludicrous.

  • Ruskin's Standard & Reference series (1872)

    12. Studies of Heads. (Lionardo.) Photograph.

    Good examples of his sketching, and very beautiful in management of crayon for shade. In points of character, whether of childhood or age, they are wholly deficient, for Lionardo only sees external form; and this old man’s head, in spite of its laborious delineation of apparently characteristic points, is essentially Dutch in treatment, and represents indeed wrinkles and desiccations, but not characters. Holbein, Reynolds, or Titian could give more character with ten lines than Lionardo could with a day’s labour: and throughout his treatise his conventional directions for the representation of age and youth, beauty and strength, are in the last degree singular and ludicrous.

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