The Stones of Venice Background

The Stones of Venice Background

Stones of Venice is a three-volume overview of Venetian architecture published by John Ruskin between 1851 and 1853. Ruskin later wrote that his intention was to reveal the relationship between the artistic temperament of the ancient city and its moral temperature by examining the particular relationship between art and the artisan who crafted the structure. One of the unexpected consequences of Ruskin’s analysis was a sudden influx of influence into contemporary British construction of the Gothic aesthetic of Venetian architecture.

What is especially interesting in light of this particular influence is the manner in which Ruskin identifies how the three dominant schools of architecture in Venice relate to that concept of morality. In addition to Gothic, Venetian architecture is dominated by Byzantine and Renaissance influences. Byzantine architecture represents the rise of Venetian morality while its ethical decay is fully expressed in Renaissance construction. That leaves, of course, only the Gothic which raises the question: why did English builders find Ruskin’s description of the Gothic Era so appealing? The answer is perhaps obvious: the high point of Venetian artistic and moral temperatures were expressed through Gothic architecture.

This raises another question. What exactly is it about the Gothic style in which Ruskin discovers this height of moral being? Fortunately for the reader as well as future architects and admirers of the solid art of construction, Ruskin takes the time to create a list of the six elements of moral temperament which characterizes the Gothic aesthetic. These elements are savageness or rudeness, love of nature, love of change, disturbed imagination, obstinacy, and generosity.

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