The generations of men run on in the tide of Time
But leave their destined lineaments permanent forever & ever. — William Blake, Milton
Modern Painters I abolishes art history and proposes aesthetic experience as a way of transcending time. The Stones of Venice, begun only seven years later, conceives of art in historical terms and history in terms of ineluctable loss. This shift exemplifies the more general distinction that Gerald Bruns has made between romantic and Victorian thinking — the distinction between "a synchronic world of systematic relations" and "a diachronic world of processes and events." In this transition Modern Painters II does not quite belong to either world. The Christian revelation as Ruskin reads it in Renaissance art is a revelation of timeless truth, since the events represented in that art exist in time yet are typical or emblematic and so are not parts of an historical process. Nor does he discuss the history of style — the Italian painters seem to exist (as the letters from Italy show) in a separate imaginative and spiritual dimension from the present, in a mythological rather than a historical past.
Yet the same letters show that time, both personal and historical, was Ruskin's major, indeed his obsessive, preoccupation during his months away from home: we have seen him studying Sismondi, mourning the [77/78] loss of childhood, and watching the daily deterioration of Italy's natural and human heritage. His passion for landscape in some sense obliterated the sufferings associated with human losses. Wendell Stacy Johnson has shown, for example, that in the poems about Adèle, natural imagery appears to relieve the pain of sexual conflict, and something of the same purpose no doubt underlay Ruskin's advocacy, in the letter to Liddell, of painters who "excite the passions little and have no historical effect; — no carrying back into past time" (III, 676). But to remember is also to do the work of mourning in the sweetly painful experience of having and not having. In the diary he divided into Intellect and Feeling, for example, Ruskin occasionally mentioned Adèle in the first part (which he did not destroy) when a significant anniversary arrived, and so he dealt with her memory partly by suppression, partly by ritualizing. The theme of nostalgic memory makes its way into Modern Painters II in the section on contemplative imagination: "There is an unfailing charm in the memory and anticipation of things beautiful, more sunny and spiritual than attaches to their presence; for with their presence it is possible to be sated, and even wearied, but with the imagination of them never; in so far that it needs some self discipline to prevent the mind from falling into a morbid condition of dissatisfaction with all that it immediately possesses and continual longing for things absent" (IV, 289). "Beautiful" and "imagination" signal the relationship between the emotional and the theoretical issues. The imagination is the capacity for seeing what is not present, yet Ruskin also defines it as a "mode of regard" that "colours" what it so carefully contemplates. That coloring is presumably not the same as the "added" charm of remembered association. Earlier, Ruskin had insisted on the objective character of beauty wholly separate from mere personal or subjective fancies, and to do so he had invented the theoretic faculty. His difficulty appears in a letter he wrote his friend Henry Acland: "All this while, I am not denying the power-the great power-of association. It is twenty times more powerful than beauty, but it is not beauty" (XXXVI, 59).
To love both landscape art and human art, therefore, means for Ruskin to resolve the contradictions between inherent beauty and the pleasures of association, and between escape from time into transcendent realities and the immersion in time with its human love and losses. This resolution means an understanding of the emotional and epis [78/79] temological character of memory. And so the themes of time and memory ripple powerfully through Modern Painters II, sometimes on the surface and sometimes not, so that a book that began as a discourse on landscape ends as a prelude to the study of buildings, artifacts whose character changes with time. The book achieves no satisfactory reconciliation of the theoretical problem, but it does present a pair of symbolic reconciliations in the two schools of art that dominate his discussion of imagination, of which we have only discussed the first so far: the school represented by Tintoretto, chiefly associated with penetrative imagination, and the school represented by Angelico, associated with the contemplative imagination. To understand Ruskin's conception of architecture as an art of memory, we must begin with his idea of contemplation and the kind of beauty associated with it.
The Mother of Beauty
n a letter to his father of July 1845, Ruskin describes the two schools of Renaissance art as belonging to the separate regions of thought and feeling. In the first school ("Pure Religious art. The School of Love") he includes Angelico, Perugino, the early Raphael, Bellini, and others; in the second ("The School of the Great Men. The School of Intellect"), he includes Michelangelo, Giotto, Benozzo Gozzoli, and others. (After his discovery of Tintoretto, he inserted that name, underscored, immediately below Michelangelo [Shapiro, 144-145].) This letter follows by one day Ruskin's complaint about the hardening of his feelings and the description of the starving child, inserted to show (implicitly) that the critical mind stifles both charity and sexuality. The suppression of memory and desire is one cause of the loss of the child's sentiment of being, but the experience of too powerfully disturbing desires signals a more devastating loss of the pristine energy. The first resolution of this contradiction Ruskin found in the school of Tintoretto: the works of a painter equal in intellectual strength to Turner but whose subject is human released a corresponding power of sympathetic identification, through symbols that collapse human time into powerful oxymorons. The second resolution he found in an art chaste, serene, brilliant in color, and rigid in form: the works of the saintly Angelico sublimate the affections, inducing the experience of sympathetic contemplation through symbols of beatified calm that transcend change.
An example of the second form of beholding is Ruskin's discovery of the tomb of Ilaria di Caretto, an event that, although treated briefly in the letters, grew in importance during the rest of his life. In Lucca, we may recall, he spent several moments every evening beside the fifteenth-century effigy. In the book she appears at the end of "Repose, [79/80] or the Type of Divine Permanence," where Ruskin writes, "There is that about [the lips] which is not death nor sleep, but the pure image of both" (IV, 123) Unlike Ruskin's usual word paintings of this period, the present passage focuses carefully on detail instead of impression, conveying in its passionless factuality a different kind of absorption. Although she is but motionless stone, at each sunset she seems to die anew — rather, she seems still alive; she is the "pure image" of sleep or death because Jacopo della Quercia had sculpted her neither rudely, which would destroy the illusion altogether, nor too precisely, which would create the illusion of actual death. As an idea she is timeless — four hundred years old yet fresh-and so yields to the daily vigil by which, as in the repetition compulsion, Ruskin can ritualize loss. Her "dwelling is the light of setting suns."
Ruskin wanted to show that the same laws of beauty that pervade the natural world also inform the human figure, vet he approached that subject, he wrote Liddell, in "fear and trembling." The idealization of the female body consorts poorly with Ruskin's inherited Evangelicalism, yet his attempt to reconcile the two accords with a movement of thought and feeling general in Victorian culture — a movement from what Walter Houghton called an ethic of earnestness to an ethic of aspiration. In the second beginning of Modern Painters II, the chapter on vital beauty in man, Ruskin shifts from the chastening imagery of sinfulness to the idealized imagery of aspiration, arguing that the aim of religious art is the restoration of fallen human nature. "Wrecked we are," he writes, "and nearly all to pieces; but that little good by which we are to redeem ourselves is to be got out of the old wreck, beaten about and full of sand though it be..., and so the only restoration of the body that we can reach is not to be coined out of our fancies, but to be collected out of such uninjured and bright vestiges of the old seal as we can find and set together" (IV, 177). Fresh from his visit to Italy, where false "restorers" had everywhere set up their scaffolds, chisels, and walls of plaster, Ruskin now proposes a genuine and spiritual restoration through the study of great art; yet the most forceful image of that project, for Ruskin, is not a vestige or remnant but a changeless female figure, the type of human permanence.
Tintoretto's Annunciation provides a central example. In this well-known passage, Ruskin draws attention to the Virgin sitting amid a mass of shattered brickwork (much like that which Tintoretto could have found in "the ruins of his own Venice") and a line of light formed by a carpenter's square that draws the viewer's eye to the cornerstone of the original building. "The ruined house is the Jewish dispensation; that obscurely arising in the dawning of the sky is the Christian; but the corner-stone of the old building remains, though the builders' tools lie idle beside it, and the stone which the builder refused is become the Headstone of the Corner" (IV, 264-265). As George P. [80/81] Landow has pointed out, Ruskin's typological reading crucially influenced Hunt and Millais in the early years of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. 3 Biblical types-Old Testament events and figures that achieve symbolic "fulfillment" in the life of Christ-bridge disparate epochs of time by shadowing forth evidences of a coherent divine intention in history; but the expectant Virgin is herself a bridge, giving birth to a religion of Love founded on the rock of the law. In a similar way, the paradox of physical ruin and spiritual persistence determines the dramatic structure of The Stones of Venice, as we will see shortly.
The acceptance of human imperfection produces the vision of a transcendent feminine Other. Clearly enough, religious, emotional, and theoretical issues fuse with remarkable complexity in the question of the female figure in art and particularly in the kind of experience Ruskin associated with the "School of Love." What would be the poetics of a School of Love? And what will be its relation to the Protestant sublime described in Ruskin's first volume and in the chapter on penetrative imagination? Unfortunately, the attempt to answer these questions in Modern Painters II is indirect, hasty, and incomplete. The two concluding chapters, on contemplative imagination and on the "supernatural ideal," together present a potpourri of superficially unrelated topics, including a few comments on associative reverie (partly drawn from the theories of Alison), a description of early Renaissance stylistic conventions, and a concluding gallery of images collected from the whole range of the "pure religious" school. Yet these pages are indispensable to an understanding of the great work to follow once we are able to grasp their underlying unity-the subject of the feminine ideal as an object of nostalgic desire and religious devotion. In effect Ruskin gives us a fantasia on themes from Wordsworth and Dante. "Tintern Abbey," the poem that provided him with a paradigmatic description of boyish delight, also contains a paradigm of mature joy, a meditation on memory and time that is consummated in the poet's address to an idealized sister. More directly, Ruskin's move from nostalgia to vision parallels Dante's in the book he carried with him throughout Italy, which consummates the loss of a mortal love in the beatification of a heavenly one.
For Ruskin the activity of the contemplative imagination grows out of an essentially passive mental state, the state of reverie when remembered events blend together into simpler forms abstracted of their [81/82] disturbing elements. Similarly, the artistic imagination "depriv[es] the subject of material and bodily shape, and regarding such of its qualities only as it chooses for particular purpose ... forges these qualities together ... and gives to their abstract being consistency and reality, by striking them as it were with the die of an image belonging to other matter" (IV, 291). Ideal beauty, Ruskin implies-as shown, for example, in the clear, simple, and luminous forms of Angelico-takes a shape akin to memory Oust as, for Plato, the recognition of beautiful forms is in fact recollection). These remarks, which combine a theory of vision with a theory of metaphor, closely suggest Ruskin's own habit of projecting onto the external world the shapes of his own desire, sublimating his lost love in idealized imagery-as, for example, when he invested Venice with the presence of Adèle. Shelley, whom Ruskin knew well, described this process in his doctrine of the epipsyche. Ruskin only goes as far as to suggest some correspondence between the loved object and the lover's own best self that is similar to the "corresponding power" necessary to the viewer of sublime Art. In the section on vital beauty in man he writes, "the ideal of the good and perfect soul" is grasped only "by seeing and reaching forth of the better part of the soul to that of which it must first know the sweetness and goodness in itself" (IV, 177).
Sweetness and strength, love and power, belong to the ideal of an integrated self, which, I have suggested, Ruskin sought in the emblems of Italian art; in terms of aesthetic theory, they correspond to the categories of contemplation and sublimity, the "pure vision" of Angelico and the "wild thought" of Tintoretto (IV, 264). What Ruskin called "Intellect" and "Love," in other words, are really two forms of passionate experience, two modes of apprehension, and this polarity represents a dramatic expansion of Ruskin's aesthetic responses. The art of Angelico goes beyond what Ruskin usually means by "imagination," as I have suggested above: of Angelico's Annunciation, for example, Ruskin writes, "All is exquisite in feeling, but not inventive or imaginative" (IV, 264). We know from his letters that he did not rank Angelico high in execution, but a deeper reason for this judgment is Ruskin's tendency to think of sublime experience as alone "truly imaginative," since the artist reconstitutes his own power as the organizing center of his creations. Tintoretto "speaks out" his works, as Carlyle would say, from within him, while Angelico seems to contemplate rather than inhabit the work of his hands, existing therefore as a saintly temperament, not as a charismatic presence. And so one art is "thought," the other "vision." Ruskin's fascination with the jeweled coloring of early Renaissance art heightens this distinction. I previously defined beauty in Ruskin's thought as divine energy made visible, but Ruskin was also attracted to the neoclassical view that color is an adven [82/83] titious quality in things and is therefore freely granted by the Creator: in his notes in Venice he calls it "ennobling to all things," "an abstract quality, equally great wherever it occurs" (IV, 305n), and much later he calls it the sanctifying element in art, the type of Love. Burke had distinguished between the rough and masculine power of the sublime and the pleasing, gentle, feminine character of the beautiful. For Ruskin, sublime art induces identification with masculine energy, visionary art contemplation of the beautiful as an object; in religious terms one form of art is "taken in" like the eucharist, the other beheld as an icon or memorial. This complex dichotomy dominates Ruskin's mature career as an art critic.
As I have implied, the dichotomy also corresponds to two alternate descriptions of the physical universe. In one account, devised to defend an art faithful to observed fact, the kinetic vitality of things predominates over their containing forms; the "character" of each object is a mode of energy disclosed by surface features and joined to an infinite system of energies that is the perpetual activity of the divine mind; mortality and loss are overcome by the inexhaustibility of natural abundance. In the other account, devised to defend an art faithful to supernatural truths, the forms of things predominate over their kinetic activity; the inertia of matter is refined away by the contemplative eye until "ideal" nature reveals itself as a world of changeless objects suffused by radiance. Mortality and loss are overcome by the symbolism of a final transfiguration that redeems the purity of the original state of beings now fallen. In the first account, all living things, including fallen man, define themselves by struggling toward fulfillment. In the second the world is seen as it will appear in eternity, with all humans connected by the presence of God in each. In Modern Painters II this cosmological account appears first in the section on Purity, the Type of Divine Energy, which attempts to explain why certain objects, such as crystals and the glowing health of the human face, strike us as inherently more beautiful than other objects. By adding to matter the purity of this energy, the artist "may in some measure spiritualize even matter itself." The best-known example of such a "spiritualized" vision of matter is of course the City of God, where "the river of the water of life ... is clear as crystal, and the pavement of the city is pure gold 'like unto clear glass"' (IV, 133-134; see Sherburne, Chap. 1).
The portmanteau idea provides a pseudophysical basis for the familiar theological oppositions between light and dark, life and death, and purity and corruption while also permitting Ruskin to combine the romantic doctrine of organic form (the "vital and energetic connection" [83/84] of parts) with the Neoplatonic radiance. He could also reconcile ideal beauty with biblical imagery and so equate idealization in art with prophecy — all the while preparing the way for a defense of the school of Angelico, with its reduction of objects to luminous, jewellike surfaces and accents of gold. All these joinings are consummated in the last paragraphs of the book, which present in climactic sequence a gallery of apocalyptic pictures: first the Archangel Michael, a bodily form converted into the habitation of infinite power ("vessel and instrument of Omnipotence, filled like a cloud with the victor light"); then the Madonnas and martyrs in rapt contemplation ("in whom the hues of the morning and the solemnity of eve, the gladness in accomplished promise, and sorrow of the sword-pierced heart, are gathered into one human Lamp of ineffable love"); and finally the angel choirs of Angelico, "listening in the pauses of alternate song, for the prolonging of the trumpet blast, and the answering of psaltery and cymbal, throughout the endless deep, and from all the star shores of heaven" (IV, 330-332). The temporal dimension of this vision is a single pulse of expectation-literally the moment between the sounds of the final trump, the instant between promise and fulfillment. But the spatial dimension is Dantean in its completeness, for the sound encircles the cosmos. The solitary mount by the Brevent is transformed into a pyramid of "sublimated humanity."
Like the vision in the Alps in Ruskin's first volume, the conclusion of his second strains beyond its subject, this time toward the idea of a Gesamtkunstwerk multitudinous in its unity, embodying all the forms of human perfection including intellectual grasp and purity of spirit, huge as an epic poem yet frozen in time like a painting, acting in fact not as the expression of a single great mind only but as a beacon or lamp to fallen human nature. From the solitary and timeless ecstasies of Modern Painters I Ruskin turns at last to architecture, the most collective of all art forms and the means by which humans most literally strive to imitate the City of God. A great church, inscribed in what Ruskin called the language of types, conveys a transtemporal vision of redemption, yet as a material object it also participates in the history of mankind fallen, struggling, and triumphing.
The Meaning of Architecture
Ruskin opens The Seven Lamps of Architecture with the charge that in architecture, as in society, material concerns have usurped spiritual concerns as the body has tended to supersede the soul. By "material" he means technical innovations, which have responded so rapidly to the "necessities of the day" that they threaten to overwhelm all consid [84/85] ered thinking about the great ends of architecture-unless, that is, we first determine "some constant, general, and irrefragable laws of right." Now, the relationship of technique to idea is organic: practical laws are always "exponents of moral ones," "the actual expression of some ultimate nerve or fibre of the mighty laws which govern the moral world" (VIII, 20-21, 22). Material forms in fact have a double reference, exemplifying both the "spirit" of a building and also the moral condition of the workman, behind whom stands the moral condition of the society that produced him. Ruskin's aim, then, is to understand spiritual reality through a logic of evolving forms in order to determine the beneficial course of those forms. Ultimately, to describe the soul and body of architecture in their ideal relationship is to describe the soul and body of a society in their ideal relationship.
Fortunately for his argument, Ruskin ends up treating his principles as "spirits" rather than laws. Instead of another book structured by a clumsy system of deductive categories, The Seven Lamps of Architecture is lucidly and ingeniously arranged according to intuitively unified subjects that complement one another. The "lamps" are in fact the various modes by which architecture produces meaning. He had intended to use the word "spirits" for his title (as though to offer the spirit rather than the letter of moral laws), which would also imply the secondary sense of angels or guilding lights. The word he finally chose makes the secondary sense primary and enriches the metaphorical suggestions. John's first vision in Revelations is the seven lampstands representing the seven original Christian churches, which visually echo the images of redemption later in the book, particularly the resplendent City of God. To this implied nexus Ruskin adds the association of "lamp" with "word" and "law" ("The Law is light"; "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet" [VIII, 22]). As Christ is the Word incarnate and the Law fulfilled, so is the church the spiritual body of Christ, of which all communicants are members. The imagery of guidance and illumination is continuous, then, with the seraphs and human lamps of Modern Painters II. And so Ruskin's seven lamps spread before us like beacons, or yet again, like seven virtues in an allegorical frieze.
The switch from painting to architecture transcends the principal dichotomies of Ruskin's early theories of art. In "The Lamp of Power" he writes that the interest of a great building depends upon "the impression it receives from human power" and "the image it bears of the natural creation" (VIII, 138), but in a famous passage from "The Lamp of Memory," he seriously called into question the value he had once attributed to the pleasure of natural objects. During a stroll in Champagnole, he writes, he discovered that the scene lost its charm the moment he imagined it as an uninhabited forest: "A heaviness in the boughs of the darkened forest showed how much of their former [85/86] power had been dependent upon a life which was not theirs" (VIII, 223) — the life, that is, of human dwellers and their history. Whether this recognition in fact overthrows Ruskin's previous insistence on the inherent character of beauty is open to debate. The point for our purposes is that the contradiction is reconciled in the shape of a Gothic cathedral. Some buildings, he writes elsewhere, possess "an exceeding preciousness and delicacy," while others have a "mysterious majesty.... like that felt at the presence and operation of some great Spiritual Power"; but the sources of the beautiful and the sublime are the reverse of what we might expect, the beautiful deriving from sculptural imitation of natural forms, the sublime from "the expression of the power" of human mind (VIII, 100- 101). Unlike a painting, a cathedral can be literally entered, for humans have designed the cope of this heaven and the range of its vistas; they incorporate nature in decorative form as the mind itself incorporates the garlands of its happiest memories, while leaving the shape of power in one sense unalteredfor vaults and chapels are the "original" appearance of the heavens [86/87] when seen in prophetic ecstasy. Mind and feeling, power and memory, fact and metaphor are inscribed together upon the same enclosing sensorium, which will retain forever the strength and sweetness of an unfading human presence. It is the type of the perfect relation of God and man.
The synthesis is only possible because buildings are temporal artifacts; in Gerald Bruns's words, they are for Ruskin "events as well as structures."(Bruns, 912) In "The Lamp of Sacrifice," Ruskin describes the event of construction as a commemorative activity. In "The Lamp of Memory" he describes the event of temporal survival as a hallowing activity, the activity by which the building embodies the collective memory of a society. In the first lamp Ruskin argues that the function of a rich sacrifice of labor and craft and materials is not to compel religious awe by means of splendor but to demonstrate an inward condition of the spirit. God demanded the tabernacle as a sign of the continuance of the covenant in response to the visible sign that God had already manifested; that testimony would be not only the firstling of the flock but the tithe "of all treasures of wisdom and beauty; of the thought that invents, and the hand that labours; of wealth of wood, and weight of stone; of the strength of iron, and the light of gold." Ruskin's emphasis, then, is on the builder and his act: "It is not the church we want, but the sacrifice; not the emotion of admiration [in a human congregation], but the act of adoration; not the gift, but the giving." Of such a sacrifice, it is pointless to ask the use in human terms. An object given up or set aside is therefore "useless" or sacred (the root sacr-, which produces "sacrifice," "consecrate," "sacred," and "sacrament," contains the sense of "giving"). And so, as landscape art is for Ruskin an act of psalmic praise, architecture is an act of sacramental praise, the human reaffirmation of the Covenant. Ruskin's biblical allusions make precise the nature of the covenantal bond: as the Levitical sacrifice of the firstborn and David's sacrifice of the water at Adullam are types of Christ's supreme sacrifice, so the sacrifice of materials in architecture reconstitutes in material form the body given up on the cross.
Architecture, then, is an expressive art, not in the sense that an emotion is an expression but in the sense that a sign is an expression. The building erected as a memorial to the covenant becomes in time the living memorial of a community persisting through many generations. Ruskin's penultimate chapter, "The Lamp of Memory," reaches its climax in one of the most famous paragraphs he ever wrote:
Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build for ever.... For, indeed, the greatest glory of a building is not in its stones, nor in its gold. [87/88] Its glory is in its Age, and in that deep sense of voicefulness, of stern watching, or mysterious sympathy, nay, even of approval or condemnation, which we feel in walls that have long been washed by the passing waves of humanity. It is in their lasting witness against men, in their quiet contrast with the transitional character of all things, in the strength which . . . maintains its sculptured shapeliness for a time insuperable, connects forgotten and following ages with each other, and half constitutes the identity, as it concentrates the sympathy, of nations: it is in that golden stain of time, that we are to look for the real light, and colour, and preciousness of architecture; and it is not until a building has assumed this character, till it has been entrusted with the fame, and hallowed by the deeds of men, till its walls have been witnesses of suffering, and its pillars rise out of the shadows of death, that its existence, more lasting as it is than that of the natural objects of the world around it, can be gifted with even so much as these possess, of language and of life. [VIII, 233-234]
Once again, to lose oneself is to find oneself. The builder who loses his time to labor turns out from the prospect of history to have redeemed time. In the first chapter Ruskin wrote, "Wealth, and length of days, and peace, were the promised and experienced rewards of [the Hebrew's] sacrifice, though they were not to be the objects of it" (VIII, 42). The language is the language of capitalist accumulation, but what for Marx would be the alienation of human work in favor of "the gods" turns into a fully humanized artifact, one that concentrates sympathy rather than personal ambition and acts as both an emblem and a virtual agent of social cohesion. Ruskinian architecture also translates into communal terms the structure of erotic sublimation. To abjure a loved object, to remember it and weave about it the "added charm" of happy associations, is to substitute the pleasures of imagination, the sweet ache of possessing and not possessing; but in architecture the remembered sympathy of a nation receives concrete and imperishable form. Time is redeemed: the "golden stain" recalls the Keatsian trope of time as a thickening substance, an autumnal ripening, which for Ruskin also renders the inorganic organic. In his physics of purity, the Heavenly City is the image of matter spiritualized, since the translucence of its elements is simply the organic energy of their internal relationships; but in the Earthly City, history, the accumulation of human actions, gives to stones both life and language, so that humans by the works of their hands can also "spiritualize matter." A great building becomes a lamp of ineffable love. [88/89]
Here surely is the metropolis of the soul's dominion. "The Lamp of Memory" is perhaps Ruskin's first truly great utterance as a theorist of art, connecting him with other great episodes in the romantic tradition — for example with Los's vision in Milton and with the aesthetics of Stevens, for whom the supreme fiction returns to humans their own image, rendered stranger and more true. Ruskin's vision of architecture also recalls a nearly contemporaneous phrase of Marx's-the organic body of man and the humanized body of nature. The politics on which Ruskin's book rests are of course anything but Marxian, as appears most clearly in the shrill denunciation of revolution with which Ruskin concludes his final chapter. Unable at this or any point of his career to see that the "cooperative" relationships of society might simply disguise the relationships of class oppression, Ruskin could only understand the Revolutions of 1848 as particularly wretched symptoms of a weakened center, a dissipation and a forgetting of those sympathies that great architecture helps to concentrate. In one sense that response confirms Walter Benjamin's diagnosis: to invest art objects with authenticity is to reaffirm the prerogatives of bourgeois authority. Yet the resonances of Ruskin's symbols etude the ultra-Toryist principles he shared with his father (see Hewison) or indeed any fixed political program; for great buildings are also a "lasting witness against" us, recalling us not only to the past but also to the idea toward which human history must strive.
Entered the Victorian Web December 2000; last modified 7 November 2012