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When Ruskin discusses Byzantine palazzi in the second volume of The Stones of Venice he points to six that at the time he wrote were relatively well preserved in their original form: “the Fondaco de’ Turchi, Casa Loredan, Caso Farsetti, Rio-Foscari House, Terraced House, and Madonnetta House: and these six agree farther in having continuous arcades along their entire fronts from one angle to the other, and in having their arcades divided, in each case, into a centre and wings; both by greater size in the midmost arches, and by the alternation of shafts in the centre, with pilasters, or with small shafts, at the flanks” (10.146). These buildings, he concludes, offer “an irrefragable proof of an intense perception of harmony in the relation of quantities, on the part of the Byzantine architects; a perception which we have at present lost so utterly as hardly to be able even to conceive it” (10.153).

In the same volume of The Stones of Venice Ruskin points out that “The most conspicuous pile in the midmost reach of the Grand Canal is the Casa Grimani, now the Post-Office. Letting his boat lie by the steps of this great palace, the traveller will see, on the other side of the canal, a building with a small terrace in front of it, and a little court with a door to the water, beside the terrace. Half of the house is visibly modern, and there is a great seam, like the edge of a scar, between it and the ancient remnant, in which the circular bands of the Byzantine arches will be instantly recognized. This building not having, as far as I know, any name except that of its present proprietor, I shall in future distinguish it simply as the Terraced House” (10.453).

Ruskin twice drew capitals from this building for plates illustrating his discussion of Byzantine palaces (10.158, Figures VII and VIII).

More of Ruskin's Venice

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

Last Modified 21 March 2020