“Brussels” Drawing 1 of 3
In the 1878 Fine Art Society exhibition of Ruskinʼs collection of Turner drawings, Ruskin showed his own “copy from Proutʼs wonderful drawing” of the Brussels Hôtel de Ville found in the artistʼs “sketches in Flanders and Germany”, which Ruskin had “made at home (Herne Hill), with other such, to ‘illustrate’ my diary of that first Continental Travel”—that is, the “Account” (“Notes on My Own Drawings and Engravings”, in Notes by Mr. Ruskin on His Drawings by the Late J. M. W. Turner, R.A. [Ruskin, Works, 13:505]). Six years earlier, Ruskin may also have shown this drawing, along with two other copies after Prout made in his youth, to illustrate one of the 1872 Oxford lectures on engraving that were later published as Ariadne Florentina. On this occasion, he may have shown his audience the entirety of MS IX, rather than exhibiting Prout copies separately from this context (see Ruskin, Works, 22:368). For the 1878 exhibition, however, the Hôtel de Ville drawing must have been mounted separately from MS IX, whether or not it had ever been pasted into the manuscript (see see Missing and Unidentified Drawings for the Composite‐Genre Illustrated Travelogue [MS IX] and Related 1833 Tour Sketches).
Ruskin took care to distinguish his copy of Proutʼs Hotel de Ville Brussells from his own 1833 on‐site tour sketch, Hotel de Ville, Brussels (see Drawings from the Tour of 1833). What is not clear is the identification and provenance of Ruskinʼs copy after Prout—or rather copies, since two different imitations of Proutʼs lithograph emerge in the record after 1900. According to the “Catalogue of Ruskinʼs Drawings” compiled for the Library Edition, two different copies by Ruskin of Proutʼs Hotel de Ville Brussells existed—one, a drawing now identified with a piece held by the Ruskin Library, Lancaster, Hotel de Ville, Brussels, after Samuel Prout, (6 3/4 × 4 1/4 inches, pen and ink with pencil wash, signed but untitled by Ruskin); and two, a “copy reduced to miniature scale” of the preceding copy after Prout (specifications and current location unknown) (Ruskin, Works, 38:276 [nos. 1358, 1359]). Which of these drawings did Ruskin exhibit in 1872 and 1878, respectively? The description of the larger drawing—apparently the one held by the Ruskin Library, with its “pencil wash”—corresponds to what Ruskin characterized in the 1878 “Notes on My Own Drawings” as the drawingʼs “most wholesome discipline;—the grey wash being now introduced when the pencil shade was impossible, but not carelessly or licentiously” (Ruskin, Works, 13:505). At almost 7 inches in height, however, this drawing could not have fit into the half‐page vertical space above the section title, “Brussels”, in the 8 × 6 1/2‐inch MS IX.
The existence of two versions—a larger and a smaller, vignette‐sized version—is supported, albeit inconclusively so, by additional exhibition history at the 1900 Ruskin Memorial Exhibition, Mechanicsʼ Institution, Coniston. According to W. G. Collingwoodʼs catalogue for the exhibition, item no. 10 was a copy after a Prout lithograph, but reduced to a “miniature scale”. (Specifically, item no. 10 was a miniaturization of Ruskinʼs copy of Proutʼs Hotel de Ville Brussells, according to the “Catalogue of Ruskinʼs Drawings” compiled for the Library Edition [Ruskin, Works, 38:276, no. 1359]. Inconveniently, Collingwoodʼs catalogue entry does not identify the subject, but states merely that the source of Ruskinʼs miniature copy was a Prout lithograph “like” what had served as the source for no. 9 in the exhibition, which was Ruskinʼs 1835 copy after Proutʼs lithograph, Hotel de Ville Louvain (i.e., Leuven) from Facsimiles of Sketches Made in Flanders and Germany. It is odd that the exhibition set up a comparison of larger and smaller copies after Prout of differing Renaissance hôtels de ville in Belgium, rather than of the same building. In 1900, the larger drawing may not have been at hand, however: in Praeterita, Ruskin says that this drawing was kept at Oxford (Ruskin, Works, 35:81).
One might be tempted to apply Occamʼs razor and declare Cook and Wedderburnʼs two entries for drawings after Proutʼs Hotel de Ville Brussells in the “Catalogue of Ruskinʼs Drawings” as referring to one and the same drawing; however, the most stubborn fact confronting us today is that the larger, surviving drawing will not fit the space above “Brussels” in the MS IX fair copy of the “Account”—and whatever version or versions Ruskin exhibited in 1872 and 1878, he clearly connected his copying of Proutʼs Hotel de Ville Brussells with the “Account” project. It is reasonable to conclude that he drew two copies in 1833 or 1834, one of them a vignette meant as the header for the MS IX fair copy of “Brussels”, and that the whereabouts of this version, last recorded in 1900, is presently unknown.
We are left with further interesting questions: What purpose was served by Ruskinʼs larger copy after Prout, Hotel de Ville, Brussels—a drawing on a scale similar to Proutʼs original lithograph—whether in the process of reducing the scene to a vignette, or apart from that process? And what relation did both copies bear to Ruskinʼs own sketch of the building made on site in 1833, Hotel de Ville, Brussels (12 × 9 inches, pencil; Pierpont Morgan Library, New York; see Drawings from the Tour of 1833)? The evidence of the two copies—one on the large scale of a lithograph, and the other on the reduced scale of a steel‐engraved vignette—suggests that Ruskin was exploring differing effects of visual media in print culture per se, as compared with a tour sketch based on observation (see Drawings from the Tour of 1833.