Mountain Gorge Drawing
Mountain Gorge Drawing

Pen and ink, approx. ? × ? cm (image only). The editors of the Library Edition describe the image as a “a mountain gorge” (Ruskin, Works, 2:364 n. 1). Along a cliffside road, a distant carriage is drawn by two horses with riders, approaching a passage cut through the rock. The drawing is a copy of William Brockedonʼs chapter title vignette for “The Pass of the Simplon”, a scene showing the Entrance to the Great Gallery near Gondo, engraved by Edward Finden, in Illustrations of the Passes of the Alps (vol. 2, “The Pass of the Simplon ”, title page). According to Ruskinʼs Plan for Continuation of the Account of a Tour on the Continent, he destined this drawing for a section entitled Farewell—i.e, “farewell” to Italy, crossing into Switzerland—which he intended to illustrate with “Brockedon from defile with Duomo dʼOssola. Entrance to Gondo Gallery vignette. My own two”. Ruskin reverses the plates as described in Brockedonʼs text, since the Ruskinsʼ itinerary carried them in the opposite direction from that mapped in the Illustrations, which runs from Geneva to Milan via the Simplon. The first scene copied from Brockedon would have been taken from plate 3 for the chapter, Val DʼOssola from the Defile of the Dovedro, described as “the route gradually lower[ing]”—the Ruskins would have looked back on this scene, as they climbed—“to where the grand and beautiful Ponte Crevola crosses the Dovedro [River], at its entrance into the Val dʼOssola. This bridge is first seen where a view of the plains of Domo dʼOssola is also presented. The landscape is one of singular beauty, and its effect, bursting upon the traveller at the end of his journey through the savage defiles of the Dovedro, is very impressive”. Brockedon dwells on these “savage defiles” earlier in the text, “les belles horreurs of the Simplon” leading up to the Gondo Gallery shown in Ruskinʼs surviving drawing: “the rocky and perpendicular bases of the mountains approach more closely, leaving only space for the road and the foaming torrent, which the latter in some places entirely usurps; and in such places the road is carried through galleries cut in the rocks. . . . [T]he wonder of this part of the road is the great gallery, which is formed just below the place where a bridge leads from the right to the left bank of the Dovedro. The ravine appears to be closed in, and the only passage is by one of the most stupendous works ever accomplished—a gallery, cut through the granite, 596 English feet long, which at the opening on the Italian side crosses the waterfall of the Frassinone: this torrent, falling from a great height, rushes through the bridge thrown across it, and descends above 100 feet into the Dovedro, where the latter river, forming a cataract, meets the waters of the Frassinone in horrible commotion: it is a spot unrivalled in its astonishing effect” (Brockedon, Illustrations of the Passes of the Alps (vol. 2, “The Pass of the Simplon ”, 14, 12).