A delightful interlude – Ruskin off duty in Venice with his dog, Wisie. The Carpaccio referred to is actually of St Augustine at the moment he hears the voice of St Jerome informing him of his coming death. Above: detail showing the white spitz dog; below: the full painting. The voice of Jerome was originally embodied in a luminous patch by the window, wrecked in a 1940s restoration.
“He was a white spitz, exactly like Carpaccio’s dog in the picture of St.Jerome; and he came to me from a young Austrian officer, who had got tired of him, the Count Thun, who fell afterward at Solferino. Before the dog was used enough to us, George and I took him to Lido to give him a little sea bath. George was holding him by his forepaws upright among the little crisp breakers. Wisie snatched them out of his hands, and ran at full speed into Fairyland, like Frederick the Great at Mollwitz. He was lost on Lido for three days and nights, living by petty larceny, the fishermen and cottagers doing all they could to catch him, but they told me “he ran like a hare and leaped like a horse.” At last, either overcome by hunger or having made up his mind that even my service was preferable to liberty on Lido, he took the deep water in broad day-light, and swam straight for Venice. A fisherman saw him from a distance, rowed after him, took him, tired among the weeds, and brought him to me, the Ma- donna della Salute having been propitious to his repentant striving with the sea. From that time he became an obedient and affectionate dog, though of extremely self-willed and self-possessed character. I was then living on the north side of St. Mark’s Place, and he used to sit outside the window on the ledge at the base of its pillars the greater part of the day, observant of the manners and customs of Venice.”