Detail from Tintoretto's 'Adoration of the Magi' : Magi and Cherubs

John Ruskin (1819-1900)1852

The Ruskin Library

The Ruskin Library

Ruskin made studies of Tintoretto’s Adoration of the Magi in the winter and spring of 1851-1852. He believed that only by making copies of the Old Masters could the student properly understand their construction and significance. After his first visit to the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice on 24 September 1845, with its cycle of paintings of the life of Christ, Ruskin confessed to his father that “I never was so utterly crushed to the earth before any human intellect as I was today, before Tintoret.”

This detail is typical of Ruskin’s love of the incidental passages in his favourite paintings, especially where a touching figure subject is combined with architectural detail. In one of his Slade lectures at Oxford in 1874, Ruskin was reminded of the ‘one quite naughty angel who pushes another’s head out of the way because he can’t see through it.’

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