Study of Mosaic; The Doge, Clergy and People, South Side of Choir, San Marco, VeniceArtist:
Charles Fairfax Murray
, British, 1849 - 1919
Material and Medium: watercolour and bodycolour on paper
Dimensions: Frame: 366 x 421mm
Sight size: 215 x 280mm
Accession Number: CGSG00001
This watercolour records a mosaic of the 1100s showing, according to the Latin inscription: 'The Priests. The Clergy. The People. The Duke, serene of mind.' The mosaic faces the high altar and represents Venice’s devotion to God.
John Ruskin called this mosaic 'the most precious historical picture’. He drew particular attention to the vivid stories told in San Marco’s mosaics because they would have been the only illustrations available to Venetian citizens 900 years ago. He also felt that their style, known as ‘Byzantine’ was the important stepping-stone from ancient classical art to that of the modern period.
By 1879, Venice's authorities were restoring and replacing the Byzantine mosaics. There is a bare patch in this drawing recording the poor state of the mosaic. But Ruskin commented that the figures’ appearance, which once had been so 'noble', were now made 'ignoble' by crude restoration techniques.