« НазадПродовжити »
ments of existing collections.
respecting the condition and management of our existing Gallery and Museum ; (for here we must resort to the singular number.) And first of the
NATIONAL GALLERY OF PICTURES.
To attempt any detailed view of the deficiencies of this collection, in point of its extent, would be at present a superfluous, if not an useless task. It is admitted on all hands to be merely the nucleus of the collection, which will one day, it is hoped, do honour to our country. While our present National Gallery, possesses* several capital pictures of the Lombard, Venetian, and Flemish schools, with admirable specimens of Murillo, of the Caracci, of Claude, and of the Poussins, it has not a single work by the greatest masterst of either
• The Gallery was commenced in 1823, by the acquisition of Mr. Angerstein's collection for £57,000. It contains 35 pictures, including the noble one, the Lazarus of Seb. del Piombo. In July, 1836, the total number of pictures, good, indifferent, and bad, was 126. The celebrated gallery at Berlin was commenced about the same time, and few have been formed with more careful selection. Its number in July, 1836, was between 700 and 800. In July, 1838, the pictures in our National Gallery bad increased to 163. An enumeration of them, according to schools, will be found in the Appendix. In addition to the Angerstein pictures, there are 34, the bequest of the Rev. Holwell Carr; 18, that of Sir George Beaumont; 16, that of Lord Farnborough ; 5 presented by the British Institution (including the magnificent Parmegiano), and 6, by the late King William. Of miscellaneous bequests and donations, there are 36 (including 17 by Lieut.-Col. Ollney),—in all, 115 by gift; the number purchased is 13, (including 2 from Lord Londonderry, and 1 from Mr. Byng,) wbich, with the Angerstein, make 48 by purchase ; together 163.
The number of pictures in the Munich Gallery appears to be about 1600, selected from between 6 and 7,000, contained in the different Royal Palaces, &c. I mention this on the authority of Mr. Edward Solly.
+ I have ventured to assume that it is now quite certain that No. 18, (The Christ reasoning) is no Lionardo, but in all probability by B. Luini;
the Florentine or the Roman schools, the sources whence proceeded the highest excellence ever yet attained in design, in composition, and in expression. Yet these are precisely the qualities most important to be studied in England, in order to counteract the prevalent faults and deficiences of the English school.
its extent. Arts' Evid. 1836.
Without then, as I have said, attempting to pursue Mr. Wil: this question of deficiency as to extent, it is worth while to quote a passage from the evidence of Mr. Wilkins, as to the number of really important pictures in the collection, which puts the matter in a very striking light.—“If ten pictures,” he says (No. 1434),
were in a room not accessible to the public, [say for the purpose of copying,] little would be left in the highest department open to the inspection of visitors.” And this statement was sufficiently liberal to continue true notwithstanding some subsequent accessions.
It must indeed be acknowledged that there has been i. Want of altogether a great want of system in the management of system, as
. this important institution. Some of its best accessions
that Michael Angelo's Dream (No. 8) is not by Michael Angelo, though after his design; and that the portrait of Julius II. is not from the hand of "Raffaelle, although an admirable copy. Dr. Waagen, whose opinion deserves great respect, is, I believe, inclined to attribute the latter picture to Angelo Bronzino. There are several other pictures whose originality is more than doubtful. With respect to the Christ in the Garden of Corregio, Mr. Seguier acknowledged it to be a copy, (Evidence before Arts' Committee, II. 1502,) but its name is still retained in the catalogue (1838). The Holy Family (perhaps by Poligo ?) attributed to Andrea del Sarto, “the faultless,” is full of faults, and has been emphatically called an “abortion," it too retains its old designation. Respecting Clande's Mill there is greater difference of opinion. The evidence of Messrs. Woodburn, Stanley, and Edward Solly on these subjects, together with that of Mr. Seguier, may be consulted with advantage, as well as Dr. Waagen's book and the clever and companionable Descriptive Catalogue of Mr. John Landseer, published in 1834.
might fairly be ascribed to accident, yet but little care seems to be taken to give it the benefit of such favorable, and often fortuitous opportunities of increase as of late have not infrequently occurred, and no sort of plan for its enlargement appears ever to have been considered.
The precise responsibility of the officers of the gallery appears also to be very uncertain.
i. Want of The utter want of all arrangement, which distinguishes arrangement, as to
this from all the other national collections in Europe, is school and a fault the mischief of which can scarcely be exaggerated. period.
It is obstructive in a very great degree of that benefit which the gallery, even in its present narrow extent, is
calculated to afford to artists and to the public. ii. Want of These and the capital mistake of providing for its proach to reception the half of a building, of which the whole adequate neither affords a room large enough for the exhibition
of the National Cartoons of Raffaelle or the Whitehall New Gallery.
paintings of Rubens, nor is yet extensive enough to contain (so has to be seen) even a collection tolerable for a country like Great Britain, may be considered as the principal defects of our National Gallery of pictures, as at present constituted. And they are grave enough to
require clear and indisputable proof. Evidence
Fortunately these were among the subjects of enquiry in proof.
before Mr. Ewart's Committee of 1836, and the requisite proof may be obtained from the unexceptionable evidence of Mr. Seguier, chief keeper of the gallery, of Mr. Wilkins, architect of the new building, and of Messrs. Edward Solly and Samuel Woodburn, both known throughout Europe, for their acquaintance with
pictures : Uncertain To the question, “To whom are you responsible?" Mr. Seguier responsibi- replies,—"To the treasury, I should conceive, or rather perhaps I lity, and
should say to the trustees. Who are the trustees?-Lords Grey, plan : Mr. Aberdeen, Goderich, and Farnborough ; Sir J. Graham ; Messrs.
Rogers, Ridley Colborne, and Spring Rice. Do they ever call you to Seguier, account?-I am not aware of it.
With whom does the Arts' Evid.
II. 1434, management of the National Gallery rest ?-With the trustees, I should conceive. To whom do they report an account of their proceedings; to whom are they responsible ?-I should conceive to the treasury. You conceive, but you do not know?-No, I do not know.” “Have the trustees proposed any plan for the collection of the
Ib. 1483, best specimens of the old masters, and taken any steps towards the
1515,1528. attainment of this object, by reporting to government the results of their consideration of the subject ?-Not that I am aware of. What are the means taken by the National Gallery to get a knowledge of the sales that take place of Italian pictures on the continent ?—I do not know that they have any particular communication; the greater part of them are persons so much interested in the arts, that I believe they know of everything offered for sale, whether in this country or abroad. Have any of the pictures of Marshal Soult been proposed to be purchased by the National Gallery ?—That I cannot speak to; I do believe that there has been some proposition made, but I am not competent to speak to that.”
Mr. Woodburn, when questioned as to the best plan in his opinion for the management of a National Gallery, insists upon the importance of adding professional knowledge to unprofessional judgment, and says:
“I consider the regulation of the French very good; they have Ib. 1697-8. what they call a custode; the chief man or person of honour is the Count Forbin: he is at the head of the Museum, and under him he has a certain number of subordinate officers, and they have four or five of what are called experts, who are judges of pictures (considered the best judges in Paris) who have to recommend. ..... All offers are submitted to them for their opinion, but the decision rests with Count Forbin."
The point of arrangement appears to have been scarcely attended to in this enquiry,* but a visit to the New Gallery will render all further evidence in support of my
assertion that it is utterly wanting, quite needless.
• The only mention made of it will be noticed in speaking of the capacity of the new building.
The New Gallery in Trafalgar Square.
Disadvantages attending its erection.
Before adducing evidence as to the capabilities of the new building in Trafalgar Square for its intended purposes, I wish to call attention to certain disadvantageous circumstances under which its architect laboured, often rather unfairly, as it seems to me, kept out of view.
The site chosen, is in respect of its locality, probably as good a one as could readily be found, even were a large expenditure incurred for the purpose. But when first pointed out, it had several serious disadvantages, which however were perfectly removable at the pleasure and by the exertions of the government.
Of these the most important were the close vicinity of certain large buildings, consisting partly of military barracks, and partly of a workhouse for the parish of Saint Martin, and an old claim to a right of way almost through the centre of the site, on the part of the inhabitants of a street or two immediately contiguous. Without the removal of these, by making provision for them elsewhere, the proper size of the proposed building must necessarily be diminished; its light obstructed; its plan destroyed by minute subdivision, and the architectural effect of its façade greatly injured.
But, so far from these serious disadvantages being removed, they were gratuitously increased. Not only were the beauty and the fitness of the National Gallery of England sacrificed to the government barracks and the parish workhouse, but certain cognoscenti, having discovered that only half of Saint Martin's portico (remarkable chiefly for its bigness, and for two improvements on the ancient examples—the introduction of windows beneath its pediment, and of iron railings between its columns,) could be seen from both sides of the street, after the erection of the proposed building, wisely called upon the government to “set it back," and it was set back accordingly fifty feet, so as to bring it into imme