Detail of the Marble Wall, Church of San Nicola, Pisa, ItalyArtist:
, Italian, 1854 - 1931
Material and Medium: watercolour on paper
Dimensions: Frame: 290 x 433mm
Sight size: 142 x 290mm
Accession Number: CGSG00042
This study shows part of the front wall of San Nicola. The facing on this wall is known as 'marble intarsia', a type of decoration made by cutting different coloured stones into shapes to create a larger decorative scheme. The wall was created in the 1100s using marble from different local mines so that the subtle colouring could be achieved. John Ruskin greatly admired this type of decoration, partly because he felt craftsmen celebrated nature by making use of naturally decorative materials.
Ruskin also commissioned watercolours of the intarsia detail and the entire façade of San Nicola. He described the set as 'exquisite' and ‘the most beautiful drawings of architecture [he] ever had’. It is likely that JE Southall, an architect Ruskin commissioned to design a new St George’s Museum in Bewdley, Worcestershire saw these watercolours as his designs for the decoration are very similar.