Corinthian Capital

Plaster Cast from the Doge's Palace, Venice, 1880s.
Ruskin on Corinthian Capitals

In The Stones of Venice (1851-3), Ruskin states that 'the two orders, Doric and Corinthian, are the roots of all European architecture' (Works, 9, p. 34).

Ruskin complained in The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849) about the use of 'garlands and festoons of flowers as an architectural decoration' (Works, 8, p. 151). He found them an unnatural arrangement of natural forms.

He contrasts this 'abuse' with architecture that places 'exuberant vegetable ornament just where Nature would have placed it'. The Corinthian capital is adduced as an example of such natural placing: it 'is beautiful because it expands under the abacus just as Nature would have expanded it; and because it looks as if the leaves had one root, though that root is unseen'. To this, Ruskin adds a more detailed analysis:

'the flamboyant leaf mouldings are beautiful, because they nestle and run up the hollows, and fill angles, and clasp the shafts which natural leaves would have delighted to fill and to clasp. They are no mere cast of natural leaves: they are counted, orderly, and architectural: but they are naturally, and therefore beautifully, placed.'

Ruskin on the Doge's Palace

Ruskin wrote in The Stones of Venice that 'The Ducal palace of Venice contains [...] three elements in exactly equal proportions -- the Roman, Lombard, and Arab. It is the central building of the world.' (Works, 9, p. 38).


Ruskin on Sculpture

The reason for the Museum's emphasis on sculpture is given in the 'General Statement Explaining the Nature and Purposes of St George's Guild' (1882):

'Sculpture is the foundation and school of painting; but painting, if first studied, prevents, or at least disturbs, the understanding of the qualities of Sculpture. Also, it is possible to convey a perfect idea of the highest quality of Sculpture by casts, and even, in the plurality of cases, to know more of it by a well-lighted cast than can be known in its real situation. But it is impossible to copy a noble painting with literal fidelity; and the carefullest studies from it by the best artists attempt no more than to reproduce some of its qualities reverently, and to indicate what farther charms are to be sought in the original.' (Works, 30, p. 56).

Ruskin then states that 'The Sheffield Art Gallery will [...] be unencumbered by any life-size statues whatsoever, and in the niches and lighted recesses of its walls will show only such examples of the art of Sculpture as may best teach the ordinary workman the use of his chisel, and his wits, under such calls as are likely to occur for either in the course of his daily occupations.' (Works, 30, p. 56).

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