§ 1. SINCE the publication of the First Edition of this work, the pursuit of the inquiries I then proposed to myself has enabled me to speak with certainty upon some subjects, which at the time when the following pages were first arranged, I was obliged to approach with hesitation.

I have not, however, except in unimportant particulars, altered the body of the text or added to it. I would only request the reader not to regard it as a complete exponent of the views I am at present engaged in advocating, but rather as an introduction to the more considered and careful statements of those views given in the Stones of Venice, and in my Lectures delivered at Edinburgh.2

§ 2. I cannot, however, allow this work to pass a second time through the press, without stating in its preface the most important of all the ultimate principles which I have been able subsequently to ascertain.

I found, after carefully investigating the character of the emotions which were generally felt by well-educated people respecting various forms of good architecture, that these emotions might be separated into four general heads:3

(1.) Sentimental Admiration. — The kind of feeling which most travellers experience on first entering a cathedral by [7/8] torchlight, and hearing a chant from concealed choristers; or in visiting a ruined abbey by moonlight, or any building with which interesting associations are connected, at any time when they can hardly see it.

(2.) Proud Admiration. The delight which most worldly people take in showy, large, or complete buildings, for the sake of the importance which such buildings confer on themselves, as their possessors, or admirers.

(3.) Workmanly Admiration. The delight of seeing good and neat masonry, together with that belonging to incipient developments of taste; as, for instance, a perception of proportion in lines, masses, and mouldings.

(4.) Artistical and rational Admiration. The delight taken in reading the sculpture or painting on walls, capitals, friezes, &c.

§ 3. Of these four kinds of feeling I found, on farther inquiry, that the first, or sentimental kind, was instinctive and simple; excitable in nearly all persons, by a certain amount of darkness and slow music in a minor key. That it had good uses, and was of a dignified character in some minds; but that on the whole it was apt to rest in theatrical effect, and to be as well satisfied with the incantation scene in "Robert le Diable," provided there were enough gauze and feuxfollets, as by the Cathedral of Rheims. That it might generally be appealed to with advantage as a judge of the relative impressiveness of two styles of art, but was wholly unable to distinguish truth from affectation in the style it preferred. Even in its highest manifestation, in the great mind of Scott, while it indeed led him to lay his scenes in Melrose [8/9] Abbey and Glasgow Cathedral,4 rather than in St. Paul's or St. Peter's, it did not enable him to see the difference between true Gothic at Glasgow, and false Gothic at Abbotsford.5 As a critical faculty, I found it was hardly to be taken into consideration in any reasoning on the higher merits of architecture.

§ 4. (2.) Proud Admiration. This kind of applause, so far from being courted, I found ought altogether to be deprecated by the noble architect, and that no building could be really admirable which was not admirable to the poor. So that there was an essential baseness in the Renaissance (i.e. the modern Italian and Greek style), and an essential nobleness in the Gothic, consisting simply in the pride of the one, and the humility of the other. I found the love of largeness, and especially of symmetry, invariably associated with vulgarity and narrowness of mind, so that the person most intimately acquainted with the mind of the monarch to whom the Renaissance architecture owed its principal impulse, describing his principles of religion, states that he "was shocked to be told that Jesus Christ spoke the language of the humble and the poor; " and, describing his taste in architecture, says that he " thought of nothing but grandeur, magnificence, and symmetry." 6*

§ 5. (3.) Workmanly Admiration. This, of course, though right within certain limits, is wholly uncritical, being as easily satisfied with the worst as with the best building, so that the mortar be laid smoothly. As to the feeling with which it is usually united, namely, a delight in the intelligent observance of the proportions of masses, it is good in all the affairs of life, whether regulating the disposition of dishes at a dinner table,7* [9/10] of ornaments on a dress, or of pillars in a portico. But it no more constitutes the true power of an architect, than the possession of a good ear for metre constitutes a poet; and every building whose excellence consists merely in the proportion of masses is to be considered as nothing more than an architectural doggrel, or rhyming exercise.

§ 6. (4.) Artistical and rational Admiration. I found, finally, that this, the only admiration worth having, attached itself ic/iolly to the meaning of the sculpture and colour on the building. That it was very regardless of general form and size; but intensely observant of the statuary, floral mouldings, mosaics, and other decorations. Upon which, little by little, it gradually became manifest to me that the sculpture and painting were, in fact, the all in all of the thing to be done; that these, which I had long been in the careless habit of thinking subordinate to the architecture, were in fact the entire masters of the architecture; and that the architect who was not a sculptor or a painter,8 was nothing better than a framemaker on a large scale. Having once got this clue to the truth, every question about architecture immediately settled itself without farther difficulty. I saw that the idea of an independent architectural profession was a mere modern fallacy, the thought of which had never so much as entered the heads of the great nations of earlier times; but that it had always, till lately, been understood, that in order to have a Parthenon, one had to get a preliminary Phidias; and to have a Cathedral of Florence, a preliminary Giotto; and to have even a Saint Peter's at Rome, a preliminary Michael Angelo. And as, with this new light, I examined the nobler examples of our Gothic cathedrals, it became apparent to me that the master workman must have been the person who carved the bas-reliefs in the porches; that to him all others must have been subordinate, and by him all the rest of the cathedral essentially arranged; but that in fact the whole company of builders, always large, were more or less divided into two great flocks of stone-layers, [10/11] and sculptors; and that the number of sculptors was so great, and their average talent so considerable, that it would no more have been thought necessary to state respecting the master builder that he could carve a statue, than that he could measure an angle, or strike a curve.9*

§ 7. If the reader will think over this statement carefully he will find that it is indeed true, and a key to many things. The fact is, there are only two fine arts possible to the human race, sculpture and painting. What we call architecture is only the association of these in noble masses, or the placing them in fit places. All architecture other than this is, in fact, mere building; and though it may sometimes be graceful, as in the groinings of an abbey roof; or sublime, as in the battlements of a border tower; there is, in such examples of it, no more exertion of the powers of high art, than in the gracefulness of a well-ordered chamber, or the nobleness of a well-built ship of war.

All high art consists in the carving or painting natural objects, chiefly figures:10 it has always subject and meaning, never consisting solely in arrangement of lines, or even of colours. It always paints or carves something that it sees or believes in; nothing ideal or uncredited.11 For the most part, it paints and carves the men and things that are visible around it. And as soon as we possess a body of sculptors able, and willing, and having leave from the English public, to carve on [11/12] the façades of our cathedrals portraits of the living bishops, deans, canons, and choristers, who are to minister in the said cathedrals; and on the façades of our public buildings, portraits of the men chiefly moving or acting in the same; and on our buildings, generally, the birds and flowers which are singing and budding in the fields around them, we shall have a school of English architecture. Not till then.

§ 8. This general principle being understood, there is, I think, nothing in the text which I may not leave in the form in which it was originally written, without further comment, except only the expression of doubt (p. 258) as to the style which ought, at present, to be consistently adopted by our architects. I have now no doubt that the only style proper for modern Northern work, is the Northern Gothic of the thirteenth century, as exemplified, in England, pre-eminently by the cathedrals of Lincoln and Wells,12

Left: Lincoln Cathedral and Model of Wells Cathedral — both from Bannister-Fletcher (1905).

and, in France, by those of Paris, Amiens, Chartres, Rheims, and Bourges, and by the transepts of that of Rouen.13

Left: Comparative views of models of Continental Cathedrals (including Amiens, Notre-
Dame de Paris, and Rouen)
from Middle: Comparitive Plans
of French Cathedrals
from Bannister-Fletcher (1905). Middle right: View inside Rouen
Cathedral from transcept looking East. Right View inside Rouen Cathedral from trans-
cept looking West.

§ 9. I must here also deprecate an idea which is often taken up by hasty readers of the Stones of Venice; namely, that I suppose Venetian architecture the most noble of the schools of Gothic. I have great respect for Venetian [12/13] Gothic, but only as one among many early schools. My reason for devoting so much time to Venice, was not that her architecture is the best in existence, but that it exemplifies, in the smallest compass, the most interesting facts of architectural history. The Gothic of Verona is far nobler than that of Venice; and that of Florence nobler than that of Verona.

Four examples of Italian gothic from the Library Ediiton. Left to right: T. M. Rooke's In the
Piazza S. Maria Novella, Florence
commissioned by Ruskin and three watercolors by
Ruskin himself: The Tomb of Can Grande della Scalla, Verona, San Michele, Lucca,
and Casa Contarini Fasan, Venice.

For our own immediate purposes that of Notre-Dame of Paris is noblest of all; and the greatest service which can at present be rendered to architecture, is the careful delineation of the details of the cathedrals above named, by means of photography.14 I would particularly desire to direct the attention of amateur photographers to this task; earnestly requesting them to bear in mind that while a photograph of landscape is merely an amusing toy, one of early architecture is a precious historical document; and that this architecture should be taken, not merely when it presents itself under picturesque general forms, but stone by stone, and sculpture by sculpture; seizing every opportunity afforded by scaffolding to approach it closely, and putting the camera in any position that will command the sculpture, wholly without regard to the resultant distortions of the vertical lines; such distortion can always be allowed for, if once the details are completely obtained.

It would be still more patriotic in lovers of architecture to obtain casts15 of the sculptures of the thirteenth century, wherever an opportunity occurs, and to place them where they would be easily accessible to the ordinary workman. The Architectural Museum at Westminster16 is one of the [13/14] his manner.

Plate IX. Tracery from the Campanile of Giotto, Florence by Ruskin himself.

§ 10. I have only to add that the plates of the present volume have been carefully re-etched by Mr. Cuff, retaining, as far as possible, the appearance of the original sketches, but remedying the defects which resulted in the first edition from my careless etching. Of the subject of the ninth plate, I prepared a new drawing, which has been admirably engraved by Mr. Armytage.17 The lettering, and other references, will, I hope, be found more intelligible throughout.


Victorian Overview John Ruskin next

Last modified 15 July 2010