Arch Mouldings on the pulpit of St. Andrea at Pistoja, by Niccolò Pisano drawn by John Ruskin and engraved by R. P. Cuff. 1855. 2 5/8 x 2 19/32 inches. Plate XIV, The Seven Lamps of Architecture in Works, 8.217. Scanned image and text by George P. Landow [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL]. According to the "Index to the Plates" (8.xvii), the following to passage discusses this plate:

“The Lamp of Life”

In fig. 4 I have endeavoured to give some idea of the execution of the subordinate portions of a much higher work, the pulpit of St. Andrea at Pistoja, by Nicolo Pisano. It is covered with figure sculptures, executed with great care and delicacy ; but when the sculptor came to the simple arch mouldings, he did not choose to draw the eye to them by over precision of work or over sharpness of shadow. The section adopted, k, m, is peculiarly simple, and so slight and obtuse in its recessions as never to produce a sharp line ; and it is worked with what at first appears slovenliness, but is in fact sculptural sketching; exactly correspondent to a painter's light execution of a background: the lines appear and disappear again, are sometimes deep, sometimes shallow, sometimes quite broken off; and the recession of the cusp joins that of the external arch at n, in the most fearless defiance of all mathematical laws of curvilinear contact.

There is something very delightful in this bold expres- sion of the mind of the great master. I do not say that it is the “perfect work” of patience, but I think that impatience is a glorious character in an advancing school: and I love the Romanesque and early Gothic especially, because they afford so much room for it; accidental carelessnesses of measurement or of execution being mingled undistinguishably with the purposed departures from symmetrical regularity, and the luxuriousness of perpetually variable fancy, which are eminently characteristic of both styles. How great, how frequent they are, and how brightly the severity of architectural law is relieved by their grace and suddenness, has not, I think, been enough observed; still less, the unequal measurements of even important features professing to be absolutely symmetrical. [pp. 200]


Ruskin, John. Works, "The Library Edition." eds. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn. 39 vols. London: George Allen, 1903-1912.

Ruskin, John. The Seven Lamps of Architecture in Works, vol. 8. Hathi Trust Digital Library. Web. 6 June 2010.

Last modified 6 June 2010