Sketch of the tomb of Andrea Dandolo bears inscription 'Andrea Dandolo "Stones of Venice". Vol II. P.62.' on the reverse pencil and wash 15 x 12.5cm (5 7/8 x 4 15/16in).
PROVENANCE: Sale, Christie's London, 14 November 1989, lot 28 Sale, Drouot Richelieu, Paris, 1998 Private collection, UK
The subject of this work is the tomb of Andrea Dandolo, Doge of Venice from 1343 until his death in 1354, in the Baptistry of St Mark's in Venice. The note on the back is a little puzzling, as Ruskin's description of the tomb appears on page 68, not 62, of the second volume of The Stones of Venice, published in 1853. Ruskin made other drawings of details of the tomb, one of which was used in Plate 9 of Stones of Venice volume I (1851) and must have been drawn in the winter of 1849-50, but the present drawing may date from his second stay of 1851-52.
Ruskin had a fine visual memory, but the description probably benefited from having the drawing to hand when he wrote this passage in Chapter IV, 'St. Mark's', section XVI:
'We are in a low vaulted room; vaulted, not with arches but with small cupolas starred with gold, and chequered with gloomy figures: in the centre is a bronze font charged with rich bas-reliefs, a small figure of the Baptist standing above it in a single ray of light that glances across the narrow room, dying as it falls from a window high in the wall, and the first thing that it strikes, and the only thing that it strikes brightly, is a tomb. We hardly know if it be a tomb indeed; for it is like a narrow couch set beside the window, low-roofed and curtained, so that it might seem, but that it is some height above the pavement, to have been drawn towards the window, that the sleeper might be wakened early; only there are two angels, who have drawn the curtain back, and are looking down upon him. Let us look also, and thank that gentle light that rests upon his forehead for ever, and dies away upon his breast.
The face is of a man in middle life, but there are two deep furrows right across the forehead, dividing it like the foundations of a tower: the height of it above is bound by the fillet of the ducal cap. The rest of the features are singularly small and delicate, the lips sharp, perhaps the sharpness of death being added to that of the natural lines; but there is a sweet smile upon them, and a deep serenity upon the whole countenance. The roof of the canopy above has been blue, filled with stars; beneath, in the centre of the tomb on which the figure rests, is a seated figure of the Virgin, and the border of it all around is of flowers and soft leaves, growing rich and deep, as if in a field in summer.
It is the Doge Andrea Dandolo, a man early great among the great of Venice; and early lost. She chose him for her king in his 36th year; he died ten years later, leaving behind him that history to which we owe half of what we know of her former fortunes.'
We are grateful to Professor Stephen Wildman for his assistance in cataloguing this work.