- Museum number
'The Florentine Picture-Chronicle' page from the album (verso of 1889,0527.41): Theseus standing by the entrance to the Cretan labyrinth, behind his father Aegeus throwing himself off into the sea from the walls of Athens at the sight of the black sails of the ship approaching from the left, the scene continued on the right-hand page of the opening (1889,0527.43)
Pen and brown ink and brown wash over black chalk
- Production date
- 1470-1475 (circa)
Height: 326 millimetres
Width: 226 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The double-page opening combines a number of episodes from the life of Theseus. On the left he is shown standing in front of the entrance to the Cretan labyrinth where the fearsome (but in the drawing unseen) half-man, half-bull monster, the Minotaur, lives. The Cretan King Minos depicted on the following page kept this creature fed with human flesh by demanding a tithe of seven young men and women by sent annually from Athens. Theseus volunteered to be included in this group. In the drawing Theseus holds one of the balls of wool given to him by Ariadne, the daughter of the Cretan king Minos, that will help find his way back through the maze after he has slain the Minotaur. Another ball of wall lies on the ground to the right already attached to a hook by the entrance. Before his departure to Crete, Theseus had promised his father Aegeus that he would instruct his crew to show whether he had survived his fight with the Minotaur by either having black sails, signifying his death, or white ones. He forgot to make this change as the ship approached Athens and as a result his father, thinking he had been killed, threw himself to his death into the sea.
The right-hand page is dominated by the labyrinth. To the right Ariadne whose love for Theseus has led her to help him escape from the layrinth is shown on the island of Naxos. She has been abandoned there by Theseus who ignores her signalling to his boat by means of a scarf attached to a stick. In despair at her lover's cruelty she jumps into the sea but is rescued by Jove or Jupiter who takes her heavenwards.
A related Baccio Baldini or School engraving of the same subject is in the BM: 1845,0825.487
Lit.: S. Colvin, 'A Florentine Picture Chronicle', London, 1898; A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries', London, 1950, I, no. 274, II, pls. CCXXXVII-CCXLI.
For Popham & Pouncey 1950 entry see 1889,0527.1
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
BM, 'Padua in the 1450s', 1998, no. 16
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Popham & Pouncey 1950
The leaves of the book, in its present state, seem to be numbered 5 to 59 in a seventeenth(?)-century hand; the numbers, in the r.-hand top corner, have in many cases been partly trimmed away. The book was broken up by Ruskin, who was in the habit of lending parts of his books and manuscripts to friends and institutions in which he was interested, with the result that when the Museum purchased it from him in 1889 it contained only 49 folios. Of the remainder, two (1890,0314.1-4. Folios 13 and 14) were presented the next year by the trustees of the Ruskin Museum, Sheffield, and four (1900,0526.1-8. Folios 9, 22, 36, and 47) in 1900 by Ruskin's cousin, Mrs. Arthur Severn; folios 1 to 4 are missing, but there is nothing to indicate that they were not removed before Ruskin acquired the book.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number