Byzantine Capitals. Left: Torcello. Capital of the Nave Pillar. Right: St. Mark's. Capital of shaft of the central Porch. by John Ruskin. Lithograph byT. B. Boys. 1853 Source: Stones of Venice, volume III (Library Ediiton, XI, 322.

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Ruskin's Text

Both are evidently founded on the antique Corinthian, but infinitely more picturesque, and worked with leaves which, instead of being pointed, are forked at the extremities; a character which I believe to be peculiar to Byzantine worL In the one from St. Mark's, these leaves are represented as drifted round the capital by the wind, and the idea is several times repeated, both in the porch and in other parts of the church. But no one capital at Torcello is like another, the one given here as an example being distinguished fix>m the rest by the two curled leaves in the shape of nautilus shells, applied to the root of its bell on the side towards the nave of the church. Both capitals are worked in white marble; the abacus of that at Torcello is of red marble; and the shaft of that of St. Mark's is of dark porphyry, in each case giving brilliancy to the crystalline whiteness which is to serve for ground to the sharp dark touches of the Byzantine chisel.


Ruskin, John. Works, "The Library Edition." eds. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn. 39 vols. London: George Allen, 1903-1912.

Last modified 9 February 2011