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Plate 25. the towers of Fribourg (detail), No. 2 was based on a Daguerreotype
Book illustration, drawing
John Ruskin Modern Painters. Volume IV., containing Part V., Of Mountain Beauty (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1879), Part V., Plate 25, between p.32-33.
The other day I sketched the towers of the Swiss Fribourg hastily from the Hotel de Zahringen. It was a misty morning with broken sunshine, and the towers were seen by flickering light through broken clouds, dark blue mist filling the hollow of the valley behind them. I have engraved the sketch on the opposite page, adding a few details, and exaggerating the exaggerations; for in drawing from nature, even at speed, I am not in the habit of exaggerating enough to illustrate what I mean. The next day, on a clear and calm forenoon, I daguerreotyped the towers, with the result given on the next plate (25 Fig. 2); and this unexaggerated statement, with its details properly painted, would not only be the more right, but infinitely the grander of the two. But the first sketch nevertheless conveys, in some respects, a truer idea of Fribourg than any other, and has, therefore, a certain use. For instance, the wall going up behind the main tower is seen in my drawing to bend very distinctly, following the different slopes of the hill. In the daguerreotype this bend is hardly perceptible. And yet the notablest thing in the town of Fribourg is, that all its walls have got flexible spines, and creep up and down the precipices more in the manner of cats than walls ; and there is a general sense of height, strength and grace, about its belts of tower and rampart, which clings even to every separate and less graceful piece of them when seen on the spot; so that the hasty sketch, expressing this, has a certain veracity wanting altogether in the daguerreotype.
On page 63 of the same volume Ruskin's analysis on these illustrations continues:
º 12. " But how of Van Eyck, and Albert Durer, and all the clear early men ?"
So far as they are quite clear, they are imperfect, and knowingly imperfect, if considered as painters of real appearances ; but by means of this very imperfection or conventionalism, they often give certain facts which are more necessary to their purpose than these outward appearances. For instance, in Fig. 2 of Plate 25, facing page 31, I requested Mr. Le Keux to facsimile, as far as might be, the look of the daguerreotype ; and he has admirably done so. But if Albert Durer had drawn the wall between those towers, he would have represented it with all its facts distinctly revealed, as in Fig. 1 ; and in many respects this clear statement is precious, though, so far as regards ocular truth, it is not natural. A modern sketcher of the " bold" school would represent the tower as in Fig. 3 ; that is to say, in a manner just as trenchant and firm, and therefore ocularly false, as Durer's ; but, in all probability, which involved entireness of fallacy or ignorance as to the wall facts ; rendering the work nearly valueless ; or valuable only in color or composition ; not as draughtsmanship.