Ruskin made his last visit to Tuscany in 1882 with his student William Gershom Collingwood (1854-1932), to investigate the architecture of Pisa and Lucca to be translated into designs for a new St George's Museum at Bewdley, Worcestershire. Ruskin settled into a routine of drawing in the 'sunny streets-under walls a thousand years old' (J. Clegg and P. Tucker, Ruskin and Tuscany, Ruskin Gallery, exhibition catalogue, 1993, p. 120).
Ruskin and Collingwood stayed in Lucca from 30 September to 1 November with a week away in Florence, where the American artist H.R. Newman introduced Ruskin to Francesca Alexandra, whose books Ruskin was later to publish. They were greeted in Lucca with the news of the death in Venice of Ruskin's copyist-protégé J.W. Bunney. Ruskin had not been feeling well in Florence, but on his return to Lucca on 11 October he wrote in his diary, 'got gradually better [and] made a good sketch of St Michael here in afternoon'. Writing of this Italian tour in his biography of Ruskin, Collingwood noted 'He painted hard himself and never did better work in his life'.
The Cathedral of San Martino in Lucca was consecrated in 1070 by Pope Alexander II on the arrival of the miraculous Volto Santo (Holy Face) of Lucca, a large wooden crucifix believed to have been carved by Nicodemus, the biblical figure who helped Joseph of Arimathea remove Christ's body from the Cross.
There are drawings of Lucca by Ruskin at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Ruskin Museum, Coniston and Abbott Hall Art Gallery, Kendal.
We are grateful to Stephen Wildman at the Ruskin Library and Jim Dearden for their help in preparing this catalogue entry.