Ruskin’s views on the place in the religious history of Venice of the Franciscan church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (Nadali & Vianello (1999) Tav. 27), and of its Dominican equivalent, SS Giovanni e Paolo, are set out at Works, 9.26ff. His views on their place in the architectural history of Venice are summarised at Works, 9.43. At Works, 11.379 Ruskin’s Venetian Index brings together his concluding judgments of the Frari and of its tombs.
His account of the Frari is based on the assumption, set out most fully at Notebook M2 p.9, that the building he saw was essentially the building started in 1250, rather than its replacement started in1340.
For images see here, and for the interior here and the website of the Basilica and parish here.
Through the Notebooks Ruskin uses examples from the Frari to illustrate his views about the development of Gothic and its degradation into the Gothic of what he calls ‘Bonism’ or Porta della Carta style. The Frari, according to Ruskin, is the source of the best Gothic traceries of the Ducal Palace and it contains examples of the worst of the late Gothic of Bon. In Stones of Venice he goes on to single out the later Pesaro and Canova tombs as examples of bad taste, but these, like the Falier/Valier tombs in SS. Giovanni e Paolo, considered by Ruskin to be even worse, do not appear in the Notebooks (Works, 11.110ff).
The passages and subjects he picks out in his own indexes to the Notebooks, presumably those he considers the most important for his work, are:
In the index at Notebook M p.221, unusually including a reference to M2:
In the index at Notebook M2 p.193L
Published references in the Stones of Venice in addition to those referred to above:
Works, 9.124 foiled shafts of the Frari;
Works, 9.133 trefoiled shaft with a capital made in Byzantine manner by Gothic craftsmen;
Works, 9.169 arch masonry from two blocks;
Works, 9.322 dogtooth;
Works, 10.272ff , Works, 10.309, Works, 11.247f apse traceries the real root of the Ducal Palace;
Works, 10.273 quatrefoils from apse Ruskin’s reward for uninteresting labour in the insights they provide into the Ducal Palace;
Works, 10.299 third order windows of the chapter house of Frari corresponding with the flank of Ducal Palace and therefore ‘of inestimable value in determining the date of the palace’;
Works, 11.270 and 12 of plate facing that page on Gothic jambs
Works, 11.280 and the facing plate on archivolts;
Works, 11.281-2 and reference to plate IX facing Works, 11.280 complete arch moulding of the apse of the Frari;
Works, 11.285 and 1 and 3 of the plate facing that page on tracery bars.
References in the small notebooks:
Bit Book p.1 form of cusp tracery;
Bit Book p.37L tracery bars of sub arches of Frari campanile;
Bit Book p.80L arches in cloister of Frari;
Bit Book p.1w Frari cloister recalling the upper cloister of Ducal Palace;
Door Book p.33 comparison between Frari and Ca d’Oro;
Gothic Book p.2 - Frari nave and the ‘universal c moulding of Venice’;
Gothic Book p.4 Apse side aisles and transepts of Frari;
Gothic Book p.6 ‘Flamboyant’ Stalls of the Frari, and reference to the Pacifico tomb;
Gothic Book p.14 - repetition and complication of the flamboyant style in the belfry door of the Frari;
Gothic Book p.35 Door of the ‘Evangelist House’ compared with the belfry door of the Frari;
Gothic Book p.36 very sharp and pure forms of lancet trefoil used to decorate the lateral piers of the Apse of the Frari;
Gothic Book p.37L Lateral door Frari - description and diagram;
Gothic Book p.37 Madonna Door of Frari ‘utterly vulgar’;
House Book 2 p.43 Moulding at Santo Stefano compared with Frari;
And see St M[arks] Book p.10 for the reference to the Frari in Ruskin’s first attempt at an index to M.
References to Frari in Notebook M:
Notebook M p.37 Defective niches of Frari and SS Giovanni e Paolo compared;
Notebook M p.38 Facade of the Frari described;
Notebook M p.44 Pinnacle foliation of West door looking to Ruskin like dying Gothic in France but seen by him as being here a modification of Byzantine or Lombard double arch;
Notebook M p.46 Discussion of the relationship between the ‘ancient and barbarous gothic’ of the Frari and SS. Giovanni e Paolo and the work of ‘Lombard’ and ‘Byzantine’ architects.
Notebook M p.48 Windows of the Frari are said to be imitated in the Palazzo Cavalli. Works, 11.368 lists the Palazzo Cavalli ‘opposite the Academy of Arts’ (San Marco 2847) and the Casa Cavalli ‘next the Casa Grimani (or Post Office)’ (San Marco 4041). Presumably the former is Ruskin’s House 30, San Marco 2847, Nadali & Vianello (1999) Tav. 50 described at House Book 1 p.35. See also Notebook M pp.92-3 and Sheet No. 69. For the Cavalli next to the Post Office see Notebook M p.145L. It appears to be the building Ruskin has in mind whenever he refers to a Palazzo (or Casa) Cavalli without qualification. Similarly Selvatico (1847) pp.113-4 and 522 distinguishes between the Cavalli and the ‘Cavalli alle Poste’. It seems likely that at this stage in M Ruskin is referring to the former.
Notebook M p.123 Reference to Sheet No. 110 [n/a], one of the upper windows of the Frari apse, with correction of the image on the sheet;
Notebook M p.126 Dogtooth on subarch at the Frari;
Notebook M pp.127-8 Flamboyant woodwork (with reference Gothic Book p.6). Comments on Selvatico’s dating of woodwork to 1475, baseness of Italian flamboyant, and Selvatico’s ignorance of Tedescan style at Selvatico (1847) p.148, and the ‘dossale di legno’ (presumably the wooden altarpiece attributed to the brothers Canozzi da Lendinara) at the lateral door;
Notebook M pp.129-30 Comparison of leaf lobe of one of the nave capitals of SS Giovanni e Paolo with the simpler leaf of the Frari, with reference to Gothic Book p.2;
Notebook M p.132 Bracket ornament in its most colossal form on a late door in the interior of the transept; Ruskin’s surprise at finding gabled dentil on both the early tombs he had described in the Frari;
Notebook M p.133 Description of the Beato Pacifico tomb in the Frari;
Notebook M p.146 Reference to the late leaf plinths of the Frari;
Notebook M p.150 Santo Stefano, SS Giovanni e Paolo and Frari cited as examples of earlier Italian tracery, and contrasted with Foscari House, Madonna dell’ Orto, and transept of SS Giovanni e Paolo;
Notebook M p.151 Belfry door of Frari (compare Gothic Book p.35).
Notebook M p.154 Tomb of Duccio degli Alberti in Frari. Leaf plinths compared with the Byzantine Police House system; acorns compared with the tomb of Andrea Dandolo. The tomb is dated 1336. Compare Works, 11.91, Works, 11.98, and Works, 11.295.
Notebook M p.155 Nameless tomb with knight in chain mail opposite Duccio tomb; tomb called Arnoldo Teutonico;
Notebook M p.156 Dating of tombs as evidence for dating of Ducal Palace and Police House;
Notebook M pp.156-7 Savelli, Bernardo, ‘Giustiniani’ (perhaps a reference to the tomb of Simon Dandolo), and Foscari (Foscari is ‘all the grossest Bonism’) tombs;
Notebook M p.157 Stone screen, dated 1475, and of the style of the inner arcade of the Porta della Carta;
Notebook M pp.157-8 Ambones utterly contrary to the spirit of real enjoyment and perhaps the richest in Venice, commonplace, and compared with the passage below the Porta della Carta;
Notebook M pp.158-9 The Foscari tomb ‘an excessive disappointment’ to Ruskin;
References to Frari in Notebook M2:
Notebook M2 p.7 Evidence of Frari in defining a sequence for the introduction of florid capitals;
Notebook M2 p.9 Ruskin’s account of the dating of the Frari, based on his assumption that the present church is essentially the one started in 1250 rather than the new church started in 1340;
Notebook M2 p.10 Comment on the ‘immense difference in date and style between the nave and doors of Santo Stefano and the Frari’;
Notebook M2 pp.16f Notes from Zanotto on tombs in the Frari, apparently written before Notebook M pp.154ff;
Notebook M2 p.17 Curious tomb in Frari cloister;
Notebook M2 pp.73L and 73 transcribe a section of the Sanudo Chronicle referring to the building of the Frari and of SS.Giovani e Paolo;
Notebook M2 pp.80-85 Traceries of the Frari;
Notebook M2 p.111 Ruskin uses his observation that the upper traceries of the Frari are badly cut as evidence for the general conclusion, applied also to the Ducal Palace, that Italian craftsmen were careless in carving upper stories - perhaps, as he suggests, for the good reason that they were taking account of the view point from which they were seen. The Ca d’ Oro is seen as an exception to that principle, here and at Works, 9.292.
Notebook M2 pp.122f The crocketing of the equestrian monument in St Anastasia, Verona is compared with the crocketing of the Beato Pacifico tomb in the Frari;
Notebook M2 p.131 The arch structure of the Frari is used as an example of the spirit of Italian Gothic in the examination of the cathedral at Cremona;
Notebook M2 p.170L Apse of Frari contrasted with the apse at Lyon.
[Version 0.05: May 2008]