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    Sale 7524

    Turin London Corfu The Collection of Giorgio Marsan and Umberta Nasi

    12 - 13 December 2007, London, King Street

  • Lot 175

    John Ruskin, H.R.W.S. (1819-1900)

    Study of a basket and lily capital, Basilica di San Marco, Venice

    Price Realised  


    John Ruskin, H.R.W.S. (1819-1900)
    Study of a basket and lily capital, Basilica di San Marco, Venice
    pencil and grey wash, heightened with touches of white
    9¼ x 6½ in. (23.5 x 16.5 cm.)

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    Ruskin was greatly impressed with the Lily Capitals of St Marks, and he illustrated them in Examples of the Architecture of Venice, 1851, pl. 7, and The Stones of Venice, 1853, pl. IX. He wrote of the Lily Capitals: 'called barbarous by our architects, [they] are without exception the most subtle pieces of composition in broad contour which I have ever met with in architecture'. He was attracted by the way their appearance changed as the light moved across the façade of the building. 'No amount of illustration or eulogium would be enough to make the reader understand the perfect beauty of the thing itself, as the sun steals from the interstice to interstice of its marble veil, and touches with the white lustre of its rays at midday the pointed leaves of its thirsty lilies,' he wrote in The Stones of Venice.
    The Lily Capitals, so called because they displayed a stylised lily framed by an open basket-work of pierced marble, were looted from the 6th Century church of St Polyeuktos in Constantinople. They were used to cap the outermost pillars supporting the north and south porticos of the façade of St Mark's.

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    Bequeathed by the artist to Joseph Arthur Palliser Severn.
    The Cunliffe Collection.
    Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 11 July 1990, lot 55.


    London, Tate Britain, Ruskin, Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites, 2000, no. 85.