Marble and other Mineral Specimens, possibly Jasperised Wood and Agate

Purchased by John Ruskin
Ruskin on Minerals

Ruskin used mineral specimens to encourage students to take an interest in the beauty and complexity of the natural world.

His interest in geology began in early childhood. It was encouraged by his father, who returned one day from the Lake District with a large collection of minerals purchased from a Lakeland geologist.

In Deucalion (1875-83), the work that Ruskin devoted to geology, he dwells on the unrivalled influence that his first box of minerals had on the rest of his life.

Ruskin's biographer, Tim Hilton, notes that he 'began a mineralogical dictionary at the age of twelve' (The Early Years, p. 17). Hilton reflects that 'Ruskin valued his stones first of all for their visual particularity', that 'They appealed to that love of detail which was so marked a feature of his visual sense'.

Apart from inspiring a close method of drawing, these geological interests prompted appreciation of the architecture of Venice, amongst whose stones he found an 'incrusted' style of decoration (Works, 9, p. 323).

A colourful description of the Museum's mineral collection is contained in an article from 1879 in the Magazine of Art:

'The contents of the museum may be divided into precious stones, pictures, and books. The minerals are, indeed, a choice collection.

Many of them were collected by Mr. Ruskin. Note, I beg of you, that magnificent specimen of crystal topaz from the Ural Mountains. It is nine or ten inches long, and is one of the biggest pieces of topaz it is the lot of the ordinary Englishman to see. There is a grand group of amethysts, along with a specimen of the same stone cut in two to show the sections. Here is a piece of emerald in quartzite; there fine and large specimens of pure crystal. That is a precious beryl. Notice these specimens of translucent or chalcedonic agate, with defined bands; of opaque or jasperine agate; these agates of various classes; that piece of chalcedony [...] together with examples o quartz, emerald, opal, ruby, silver, and virgin gold. Very beautiful are these minerals. They are an artist's ideal of colour, the process of burnishing having brought out their delicate tints in the richest profusion.' (Magazine of Art, III, December 1879, pp. 57-60).
Inside the Museum
Extension, View 1
Extension, View 2
Extension, View 3
other Exhibits
History of the Museum
John Ruskin
About the Project
Museums Sheffield
Useful Links

Please leave feedback
on Facebook