Study of Mosaic, 'The River Eufrates', Spandril, Central Dome, San Marco, Venice, ItalyArtist:
Thomas Matthews Rooke
, British, 1842 - 1942
Material and Medium: watercolour and gold on paper
Dimensions: Mount: 677 x 574mm
Overall: 607 x 239mm
Accession Number: CGSG00247
This male figure holding a water jar represents 'Euphrates', one of the four rivers of Paradise. The other rivers are Tigris (or Hiddekel), Pison and Gihon. These four figures, created out of mosaic are on the 'spandrels', or areas at the top of the pillars that hold up the central dome of San Marco.
Ruskin commissioned a number of mosaic studies from Rooke, partly to record their appearance before restoration and partly in connection with 'St Marks Rest', Ruskin's guide to Venice, which was published 1877-1884. He did not however mention these mosaics in this book, but wrote much earlier in another book, 'The Stones of Venice' that these mosaics of the rivers were 'symbols of the sweetness and fullness of the Gospel.'
John Ruskin placed particular importance on the vivid stories told in San Marco’s mosaics because they would have been the only illustrations available to Venetian citizens 900 years ago