'John Ruskin. The Stones of Venice' at the Doge’s Palace

A great exhibition to celebrate the artistic genius of the English critic and his bond with Venice

From 10 March 2018 to 10 June 2018

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From March 10th to June 10th, 2018 John Ruskin is ‘back’ in Venice. The Doge’s Palace will host a major exhibition focusing on the fascinating relationship between Ruskin and Venice, a deep and strong bond that fuelled the most renowned literary work by the English critic, 'The Stones of Venice', a study on the architecture of the city on the water, which is also a hymn to its beauty and extreme fragility.

'John Ruskin. The stones of Venice' is a unique exhibition that, for the first time in Italy, focuses only on Ruskin the artist and on his special relationship with our city.


John Ruskin

A writer, painter and art critic, John Ruskin (1819-1900) is a central figure in the 19th century international art scene. Admired by Proust and Tolstoy, he succeeded in influencing the aesthetics of his time with his interpretation of art and architecture and contributed to spreading the myth of Venice, extolling its beauty right in the period of its decline.

His religious spirit, matured in Victorian England, is animated by an ethical vision that lead him to deal with social and political issues - in contrast to the materialism that was spreading more and more - promoting the utopian idea of a happy society for all, an ideal that, among others, also fuelled Gandhi. He wrote about mineralogy and botany, about economics, architecture and restoration, as well as questioning social issues, art, landscapes and nature... John Ruskin managed to bring forth an interdisciplinary vision at a time when the term ‘interdisciplinary’ had not yet been coined. It being impossible to fully tackle the complexity and genius of this versatile personality, the John Ruskin exhibition in Venice had to make a compromise and focus solely on his production as an artist. About a hundred works are on display to testify his willingness to translate reality into images.

Taking into account his eclecticism and the prominent role that words took on in his work, the exhibition at Doge’s Palace on Ruskin, John ‘The stones of Venice' also aims at putting forward a challenge to pay greater homage to the painter within this great artist: architecture, the works of great masters of the past in the Serenissima which he reproduced and reinterpreted, and the unique exploration of nature using imagination and curiosity are the common thread of the display organized at the Doge’s Palace.

Fundamental to his work is the encounter, at a young age, with the mature Turner, who Ruskin defended against the various detractors in several writings and in the work 'Modern Painters'. To better understand the strength of this encounter the John Ruskin Venice exhibition will include some splendid depictions of Turner such as Punta della Dogana and Santa Maria della Salute - on loan from the National Gallery in Washington - and Venice, Marriage of the Sea ceremony - in arrival from the Tate in London.

But Ruskin's paintings do not strive towards the sublime and the abstraction like Turner's. Ruskin describes reality in a detailed way to capture all its nuances. Nevertheless, his study of nature or the attempt to reproduce architectural details reveal a vision that brings to light his ideas on the role of artists, who should be prophets, a clairvoyant able to understand and translate the divine truth contained in natural reality - ideas derived from the works of Turner.


The exhibition

John Ruskin and Venice, a bond created when the artist was only sixteen and had been cultured through eleven voyages between 1835 and 1888. Studies of clouds, Sunsets, Full Moon Nights, Glimpses of the lagoon, the great Venetian painters: Carpaccio, Veronese, Tintoretto: Ruskin's love for Venice translated into numerous works, but the crucial theme remains 'gothic nature', rediscovered and celebrated as the highest point in art and architecture from an aesthetic and moral point of view. For this reason, the reference text of the exhibition on Ruskin in Venice 2018 is precisely 'The Stones of Venice' (1851-1853, 3 volumes), but also the folio tables of the Examples of the Architecture of Venice - published in the same years - and St. Mark's Rest, a sort of revision of the 'Stones of Venice', elaborated after Ruskin witnessed the demolition of some important parts of St Mark’s Basilica, and offered as a guide of the city for tourists who are still fond of its monuments.

The exhibition on John Ruskin in Venice is housed in the splendid rooms of the Doge's Apartment in the Doge’s Palace, the building that Ruskin explored and analyzed the most and from different angles in notebooks, reliefs, watercolors, plaster casts, platinotypes and albumen paintings. The much loved and portrayed rooms and lodges will be the background to his works on display, whereas the scenography by Pier Luigi Pizzi will highlight the Gothic and Byzantine architectural and sculptural elements in medieval and anticlassical Venice. This exhibition was much desired by Gabriella Belli and curated by Anna Ottani Cavina, 'John Ruskin. The stones of Venice’ boasts all international loans, since there are no works by the English artist in Italy.

A series of watercolour paintings will also be on display at the Doge’s Palace. These deal with the theme of mountains and Italian landscapes. On top of this, a selection of Venetian Notebooks - sketchbooks, plants, measurements and very dense notes; Ruskin's manuscripts for 'The Stones of Venice' - fragments of blue paper kept at the Morgan Library in New York, for the first time shown to the public; some first editions; daguerreotypes; historical photos and paintings by the great Venetian sixteenth-century painters which will be compared to the studies that Ruskin drew from them.

Over a hundred years ago John Ruskin managed to launch an alarm signal that is still resonant today. The Venice he loves is made of discovery, obsession... it is love, for its beauty, and hate, for its decadence which few seem to notice. From his relationship between civil society and architecture an image of a city which needs to be saved emerges, and he seems to erect himself as the 'Director of Conscience', as Proust called him in the obituary published a few days after Ruskin's death.

“[Venice]… is still left for our beholding in the final period of her decline: a ghost upon the sands of the sea, so weak—so quiet,—so bereft of all but her loveliness, that we might well doubt, as we watched her faint reflection in the mirage of the lagoon, which was the City, and which the Shadow. I would endeavour to trace the lines of this image before it be forever lost, and to record, as far as I may, the warning which seems to me to be uttered by every one of the fast-gaining waves, that beat, like passing bells, against the Stones of Venice.”
'John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice, vol. I, ch. I, § 1


'John Ruskin. The Stones of Venice’

March 10th - June 10th, 2018

  • March 10th – 31st: 8.30 to 17.30 (last admission at 16.30)
  • From April 1st: 8.30 to 19.00 (last admission at 18.00)


Holders of The Museums of St. Mark's Square ticket can buy the ticket to visit the exhibition at the special price of €2.00!

  • Adult €13.00
  • Reduced €10.00 (children 6 to 14 years, students 15 to 25 years, over 65s, employees of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Tourism Activities, Museum Pass holders, holders of Venezia Unica Adult and Junior Pack, Rolling Venice Card and Youth Card holders, Icom Members, Trenitalia customers (Frecciargento and Frecciabianca passengers to Venice, passengers holding an international ticket to Italy), FS Group employees and Carta Freccia holders), Touring Club Italia members, ISIC holders - International Student Identity Card, Carta Più Cinema Card holders, groups (min 15 people).
  • Free entrance for children up to 5 years; accompanied disabled people; authorized guides of the Province of Venice; travel interpreters from the Province of Venice accompanying groups; teachers accompanying school groups, up to a maximum of 2 per group; persons accompanying (maximum 1) groups of adults; ordinary MUVE partners; holders of The Cultivist card (plus three guides).
By Insidecom Editorial Staff