Study of a Peacock's Breast FeatherArtist:
, British, 1819 - 1900
Material and Medium: watercolour on paper
Dimensions: Mount: 420 x 297mm
Support: 289 x 198mm
Accession Number: CGSG00046
'I have to draw a peacock's breast-feather, and paint as much of it I can, without having heaven to dip my brush in'.
This study is typical of Ruskin’s interest in learning through carefully observed drawing. He noted that the colours in peacock feathers are so magnificent as each single filament of them contains 'glowing' tones and 'rainbow iridescence'. He was interested in how the attractive colour of a peacock’s breast feather was only towards its tip. Further down, feathers were less colourful and structured as when overlapped with the next feather, the attractive colour wouldn’t show, and the fluffy down was needed to keep the bird warm.
Ruskin apparently used this particular study in a lecture about the red breast feathers of a robin. Seeing parallels between species is typical of Ruskin. Like a peacock’s, a robin’s breast feathers are attractively coloured above, with practical fluffiness below.