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that “a mere statement of such a mode of proceeding is sufficient.” A walk into St. Paul's cathedral will supply the most appropriate commentary.
Strange as this “mode of proceeding" may appear at first sight, its strangeness vanishes when it is remembered, that at neither of our universities is there the slightest provision for instruction in the theory and principles—to say nothing of the practice of the arts of design. Whatever knowledge, therefore, of these is acquired by unprofessional men, is usually gathered in the most desultory manner, and as usually is a onesided or half-knowledge, so far is it from being true, that “an amateur is necessarily free" from those prejudices which sometimes lead professional men of narrow education to close their eyes to the merits of any style or school of art, save that to which they are themselves attached.*
More recent experience is unfortunately much of the same kind. For the Nelson Testimonial, a hundred Testimoand fifty designs were sent to the committee. Three of them were selected as worthy to receive the appointed prizes, and the first of these three-a column-was recommended for execution. Subsequently to this selection the whole of the designs were exhibited to the subscribers; an almost universal dissatisfaction was
* “ Moreover, the prejudices of professional men are often extended from individnals to the rival schools in which they have been educated; and this an amateur is necessarily free from'' ! -Thoughts on the expedience of a better system of control and supervision over building's erected at the public expense; and on the subject of rebuilding the Houses of Parliament. By Lieut.-Col. Sir Edward Cust. London, 1837, p. 7. Sir E, Cust, who, it will be remembered, was one of the judges of the designs for the Houses of Parliament, ought, before he penned this notable sentence, to have read the letters addressed by Mr. W. R. Hamilton, an amateur of no mean rank, to Lord Elgin, respecting those very designs.
expressed at the choice which had been made, and the committee was at last compelled to invite a new competition.
But of this new competition, after increased trouble and outlay on the part of the artists, the result was precisely similar. A majority of the committee still preferred a mere column, with a statue at the top, to any other design; they accordingly adhered to their original choice, and, with some difficulty, obtained its confirmation. And thus, after several designs of great beauty had been produced, they were all rejected in favour of an imitation of the column of Trajan at Rome, involving no invention at all, in the proper sense of the term, and a compromise was effected with the claims of that artist—a man of deserved celebrity-whose design was placed second in the selection, (although unquestionably the best of all which had been submitted,) by giving him a commission for the statue which is to surmount the column. There is now no room to doubt, that from the first it had been predetermined by a powerful clique in the Committee to prefer a column, let the merit of the other designs, which the invitation should produce, be what it might. A few more proceedings of this kind will so effectually ruin the repute of public competitions altogether, that we shall be fain to revert even to the system which produced those miserable abortions, the Queen's Palace and the National Gallery.
With this narrative let us contrast the account of a to Cement competition of French architects for a monument to Foy. General Foy, as given by M. Vaudoyer, * a member of
the Institute, and the father of the successful competitor.
* In a letter to T. Leverton Donaldson, Esq., then secretary to the Institute of British Architects.
The programme required that the ground should be twelve metres (about thirteen yards) in the greatest dimension, that the competitors should furnish geometrical drawings and views in perspective, details of construction, an estimate of the expense (which was not to exceed 50,000 francs), and a model executed in relief on a fixed scale of large proportions. Twentyfive of the most able of the French architects engaged in this competition. The names of the authors of the several designs were rigorously concealed.
After a public exhibition of eight days, during which the journals abounded in criticisms, a numerous commission was composed— 1st, of architects, sculptors, and painters, of the Academy of Fine Arts of the Institute; 2d, of artists not belonging to the Institute; 3d, of generals; and 4th, of members of the Chamber of Deputies. To this commission the selection of the design was referred. The generals and the deputies deliberated with the other members, but not thinking themselves competent to pronounce upon an art which they had not studied, and fearing by a conscientious, but possibly ill-placed vote, to falsify the judgment and commit an injustice, they had the delicacy to withdraw. The commission, thus reduced to artists, proceeded in various sittings to the determination-Ist, by eliminating fifteen out of the twenty-five; 2d, by selecting from the ten remaining the five best; and 3d, by again selecting three out of the five, which merited the preference. Of these, the design of M. Leon Vaudoyer was unanimously chosen first, for execution, and the two which stood next it were rewarded.
In this instance we find a carefully prepared programme, a public exhibition before the selection, and a duly competent tribunal: but whetber the total exclusion of unprofessional judges be generally conducive to the latter, may reasonably be doubted.
If the programme be clear and distinct as to the tion o tribunals. object aimed at, and the maximum cost to be incurred,
while it leaves considerable latitude as to the means by which the object may be attained; and if the reasons for the judgment be fully given by the judges under their hands, and published—a point of great importance, though it appears to have been hitherto quite overlooked—then advantage may surely be expected from the judicious obtention of the opinions both of amateurs and artists, upon the merits of the competing designs. But the whole number of ultimate judges should in no case be large-a too common fault in our own recent experience. During public exhibition expression cannot be given to too many or to too free opinions, but the final decision should rest with a few.
The problem to be solved in the composition of tribunals of this kind has been well stated by one of the most distinguished of the French writers on art, in these words: “Le concours a pour objet principal d'oter aux ignorans le choix des artistes pour les travaux publics, et d’empecher que l'intrigue n'usurpe les travaux dus au talent. Il faut donc d'une part que les artistes ne puissent point intriguer, et de l'autre que les ignorans ne puissent point choissir.”*
In English experience respecting public works, both the occurrences here so strongly deprecated have taken place in perfection. Artists have intrigued and ignorant persons have chosen ; and competitions, instead of having brought the remedy, have too often been the very means of working out these deplorable results. In this respect, as in commissions upon public records,
M. Quatremêre de Quincy, in the Encyclopédie Méthodique-- Archi. tecture, ß Concours.
and the governing boards of museums, rank and station in the persons appointed have been too much regarded to the neglect of special qualification for the business in hand. A valuable witness before the Arts' committee, who has been already quoted on other topics, thus replied to the question, “What has been the pervading character of such commissions as have been appointed to decide upon competitions for public works in England ?-) apprehend, from the history of architecture in this country, that the aristocratical principle of our government has been especially illustrated in those respects, and we have always, therefore, found patronage and the opinion of persons in authority prevailing, in a great measure, over public opinion and merit.”*
It has been suggested as a good subsidiary mode of obtaining opinions in matters of artistic competition, to resort to a practice which obtained amongst the Greeks of collecting the votes of the competitors themselves.+ Each artist might have two votes, which he should authenticate with his name. By this, says Mr. Cockerell,I “ you not only enlist his judgment but his generosity, and give him the opportunity of that addi
* Mr. Cockerell's evidence before committee on Arts and Manufactures, II., l. 2208.
† “ Venere autem, et in certamen laudatissimi, quanquam diversis ætatibus geniti, quoniam fecerant Amazonas : quæ cum in templo Ephesiæ Dianæ dicarentur, placuit eligi probatissimam, ipsorum artificum, qui præsentes erant, judicio, cum apparuit eam esse, quam omnes secundam a sua quisque judicassent. Hæc est Polycleti, proxima ab ea Pbidiaæ, tertia Ctesilai, quarta Cydonis, quinta Pbradmonis.”—C. PLINII, Nat. Hist. Lib. xxxiv., 19.-Edit. Harduin. Tom. ii., p. 649. Paris, 1641.
| Ev. Q. 2201. The whole of Mr. Cockerell's evidence on this subject will well repay a careful perusal.