John Ruskin, detail from the 'Bit Book'

‘My Dearest Place in Italy’: Ruskin in Verona

8 January - 3 April 2005

This exhibition explored John Ruskin’s love for the city of Verona and its architecture.

‌"[I]f I were asked to lay my finger, in a map of the world, on the spot of the world's surface which contained at this moment the most singular concentration of art-teaching and art-treasure, I should lay it on the name of the town of Verona."

John Ruskin, 'A Joy for Ever', Lecture 2 (1857)

On most of John Ruskin's trips to Venice, he also visited the nearby city of Verona, whose more concentrated beauty held a particular affection for him. "[I]t contains," he proclaimed in his 1857 lecture entitled A Joy For Ever, "perfect examples of the great twelfth century Lombardic architecture, which was the root of all the medieval art of Italy, without which no Giottos, no Angelicos, no Raphaels would have been possible: it contains that architecture, not in rude forms, but in the most perfect and loveliest types it ever attained - contains those, not in ruins, nor in altered and hardly decipherable fragments, but in churches perfect from porch to apse, with all their carving fresh, their pillars firm, their joints unloosened. Besides these, it includes examples of the great thirteenth and fourteenth century Gothic of Italy, not merely perfect, but elsewhere unrivalled." The Duomo, together with the Gothic churches of Sant’Anastasia, San Fermo and San Zeno and the remarkable medieval tombs of the Scaligers and Count Castelbarco, provided subjects which Ruskin never tired of seeing and drawing.

John Ruskin: Duomo - details, 1849; Sant' Anastasia - window, south transept, 1849-50

Verona was fondly remembered in Praeterita: “she has virtually represented the fate and the beauty of Italy to me; and whatever concerning Italy I have felt, or been able with any charm or force to say, has been dealt with more deeply, and said more earnestly, for her sake.”

John Ruskin: River Adige and Ponte Nuovo, 1869

Ruskin's lecture on Verona and its Rivers was delivered in London at the Royal Institution on 4 February 1870, four days before his inaugural lecture as Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford. It was eventually published in 1894, as part of Verona and other Lectures, when it can only be hoped that its appearance gave some final pleasure to one who derived so much from the city itself over more than fifty years.

John Ruskin: Piazza delle Erbe, c. 1841