Page images

its mere architectural features, will be the first and essential consideration. We obstinately continue to think only of the outside of our public edifices—we persist in raising Greek temples, Palladian palaces, and Mediæval townhalls for museums, institutions, and public offices, without reference to what they are to contain, to the purposes for which they may be required, , or to the comfort and convenience of those who are to use them. Neither climate, atmosphere, nor light are taken into much consideration. Even the common power of adaptation seems to be lost. An architect of eminence, who has raised several public buildings of importance, denounces in the House of Commons, of which he is a member, the use of the Gothic style, not on account of its æsthetic merits, but because it does not admit of sash windows! In the same place Lord Palmerston and Mr. Conyngham-a gentleman who claims to be an authority on matters of taste-condemn it in no measured terms as barbarous, and only befitting the ecclesiastical purposes of the middle ages.*

We do not wish to dwell any farther upon this extraordinary ignorance of the true principles and objects of architecture. All we now desire to urge is, that, when the new galleries are built, their architectural features should be made subordinate to their first use—the display of our pictures. If the architect cannot undertake to accomplish this, let us have recourse to the engineer who contrived the Museum at Kensington or the Art Treasures Exhibition at Manchester, whicb, as we had occasion to state at the time, was better suited than any building we ever saw as regards light, space, and other requisites for the display of paintings. The interior, grand and simple in its proportions, required very little, and that little easy to be supplied by taste, knowledge, and experience, to render it architecturally a very noble monument. The public now possesses a , though on a much smaller scale, at Kensington. of pictures by

There English artists, turned summarily out of Marlborough House, must be placed somewhere until a dark and massive temple, with the usual Greek portico and the inevitable Greek pediment, be provided for them. The ingenious and daring administrators of the Brompton Institution have stolen a march, we suspect, upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They are determined to show what they can do, so that the public may see for the first time the treasures of modern art which it possesses. They hope that this badly-treated public, at last driven to despair, will fall into their hands, and will only be too glad to leave their pictures where for once they can be looked at and enjoyed. An

[ocr errors]

* Debate


f 13th February last, on the New Government Offices



unhoped-for triumph over the House of Commons and public opinion will have thus been secured. Whilst other people are thinking over what is to be done,' their able engineer, Captain Fowke, is called in-he raises in a few days, with some cart: loads of bricks, tons of iron, and sheets of glass, a building to which the paintings are carried before the Trustees of the National Gallery can look about them, in spite of their protest, and, we presume, in open violation of the law. If the pictures are to be transferred again to the architect's classic edifice, we recommend our readers to see them on the engineer's premises before they are again, perhaps for ever, removed to hopeless darkness. Do We are not prepared to recommend the exterior either of the Manchester Exhibition or of what it is now the fashion to call contemptuously the Brompton Boilers,' as an example to be followed in the erection of any great national edifice. The engineer having devised the best means of exhibiting the pictures, let the

, architect display his taste, skill, and knowledge in developing, adorning, and rendering permanent the first simple and necessary forms, and thus converting the building into a monument, the architectural features of which may be artistically beautiful, but do not, in any way, sacrifice its usefulness. It is thus that all really good architecture has originated. It is the engineer's structure, devised with reference to its immediate object alone, beautified, embellished, and converted into durability by the genius of the great architect. and other its com

It is not only in England that architects have hitherto failed in constructing galleries fitted for the exhibition of pictures and statues. They have not been more successful in many

instances on the Continent. Thus, in the new gallery at Dresden the centre bail, erected expressly to receive the Madonna di San Sisto and other gems of the collection, was found to be so unsuited to the purpose, that it has been given over to tapestry, and Raphael's great picture has been removed to a small room, where

, it is not seen to much advantage. In the Vatican the frames turn on hinges, so that the paintings may be brought to the light-a contrivance which must occasion injury to the pictures by the constant motion. Few rooms in either of the great Florentine galleries, the Uffizi and the Pitti, have good lights. you, odpore

We trust that in any future building means will also be taken to exhibit our pictures to more advantage than at present. It would be difficult to imagine rooms more mean and more dişcreditable to our taste in every respect than those now containing the National Gallery. With its clumsy skylights, its paltry boarded floors, its few rickety chairs, its vulgar railings, its shabby fittings, and the ugliest of common paper, the 701-bogados


[ocr errors]


interior of the building in Trafalgar Square more resembles that of an ill-regulated workhouse than of a palace dedicated to the arts. The smallest collection in the most insignificant town in Italy is better lodged. If it be not desirable to have the silken hangings of the Pitti or the gilded cornices of the Louvre, let us at least have some simple yet tasteful decoration, and a little decent furniture, a comfortable chair upon which we may sit to enjoy a picture, and a paper that will not grossly offend the eye.

Not the least important of the functions claimed for the fine arts is the raising of public taste and the refinement of

If this be one of the objects of picture galleries, those who are to benefit by pictures should surely be shown, by the manner in which they are kept, that some value is attached to them. The common multitude will not be persuaded that things can be very precious which are crowded on bare walls like useless lumber. We feel certain that it would be no longer necessary to warn the public that they are not to bring into the Gallery baskets with provisions, and to litter the floor with sandwichpapers and orange-peel, if the furniture and the decoration of the rooms were such as to lead them to believe that they were in a place where they were expected to behave with decency. We do not advocate such over-decoration as might destroy the effect of the pictures or distract attention from them. But it is a vulgar mistake to suppose that ornamentation destroys fine paintings. So far from such being the case, its judicious employment adds to their enjoyment. Any one experienced in galleries will know how different is the impression made by pictures seen in different localities and under different circumstances. This utter absence of elegance and refinement in the fittings and furniture of all our public exhibitions is a proof of a want of national good taste. It is nowhere more strikingly seen than in the British Museum, where the heavy, dingy, box-shaped ceilings, thoroughly classic though they may be, cause a painful sense of oppression, and utterly disfigure the proportions of the rooins, and the ponderous mahogany cases are more fitted to hold a housekeeper's stores than to receive the choicest specimens of ancient art.

In concluding these remarks we cannot refrain from expressing a hope that, when the question shall be finally settled, and when, as we trust will be the case, the various collections of art are united under one roof, provision will be made for the future management of the whole upon a more rational system than that now in operation either in the British Museum or in the National Gallery. At present these establishments are administered by the cumbrous machinery of unpaid Trustees. In the British Museum the vices of the system are fully exemplified—more espe


cially at the present time, when certain Trustees are supposed to represent the various antagonistic interests of the antiquities, the library, and the natural history. We have endeavoured in a former article to do justice to the rare energy and abilities of Mr. Panizzi ; but in the position he holds, with curtailed power and responsibility, it would be impossible even for a man of his capabilities to manage with adequate order and system that vast institution. The result of this division of authority and want of method is a constant disagreement and rivalry between the different departments, arising from some real or presumed sacrifice of the one to the other. Unpaid and dilettante administration, in which responsibility scarcely exists at all, or is so much divided that it rests on no one man's shoulders, is opposed to all good and solid improvement. It is a system which has only worked at all in England through continual but very undesirable public pressure and interference. Let us have one man of character, capacity, and knowledge placed at the head of our art, vested with full authority and responsible to Parliament and the country for the due discharge of the duties confided to him. If it be absolutely necessary that there should be Trustees in order that vested rights may be respected, let those Trustees be merely retained to watch over the due fulfilment of the particular trusts confided to them, but for no other purpose whatever. A step in the right direction has been taken by the appointment of a Director, and by a diminution of the number and power of the Trustees, of the National Gallery. We have shown how well the change, incomplete as it is, has worked under the direction of a competent man. We suspect that, if the powers of interference of the Trustees had been even more diminished, the progress and success would have been proportionately greater.* Let an equally competent officer be placed at the head of a great Museum of Art, such as we have sketched out, and we will venture to say that in a very few years there will be no nation in the world which could vie with us in the extent, completeness, value, and arrangement of our various collections. Instead of losing, as we now do, for want of decent accommodation to exhibit them, many precious works of art which would otherwise be presented and bequeathed to the nation, we should possess an establishment to which public spirited and liberal men would be proud to confide their choicest treasures.

* We cannot refrain from bearing our testimony to the ability, knowledge, and devotion displayed by Mr. Cole in the management of the Kensington Museum. The varied and admirably arranged collections there exhibited now form one of the most useful and interesting exhibitions of the metropolis, and are a convincing proof of what may be accomplished in a short space of time by well-directed and anfettered energy.




[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


ortante au lo pela adresa ART. IV.-1. Aegypten's Stelle in der Weltgeschichte-Geschicht

liche Untersuchung in fünf Büchern. Von Christian Carl Josias

Bunsen. Vols. I.-Y. Hamburg and Gotha, 1844-1857. 2. Egypt's Place in Universal History-An Historical Investi

gation, in five books. By Christian C. J. Bunsen. Translated from the German by Charles H. Cotterell.

1S. 1. III.

London, 1848-1859.

savo 27 oca pa 3. An Account of some recent Researches near Cairo, undertaken

with the view of throwing light upon the Geological History of the Alluvial Land of Egypt. Instituted by Leonard Horner, Esq. From the Philosophical Transactions. Parts I. and II, London, 1855 and 1858.

งาน ป. 1 1 16 สาว 2 ใน 22 ( THE laws which determine the value of historical evidence to ought to be the same for ancient as for modern times. A writer of any period of modern history is expected to produce in support of his facts the testimony of credible contemporary witnesses, and is justly censured if he founds his narrative upon documents of uncertain authorship and unknown date. But this historical sense has been of slow growth. For many centuries the histories of the countries of modern Europe commenced with fictions which had not even the recommendation of embodying popular traditions or national stories. The inventions of one or two chroniclers respecting the origin and early history of their nation were received by their immediate successors without hesitation, were repeated with confidence by a long and respectable list of authorities, and at length became so firmly embedded in the national belief, that no one ever thought of challenging their truth or questioning their authenticity. In this manner the early annals of English history were filled with an imaginary series of monarchs, the descendants of Brute the Trojan, whose names and dates were recorded with the same precision as those of the Plantagenets and the Tudors. Their lives and deeds were accepted as historical facts; and King Lear, the son of Bladud, who

was ruler over the Britons in the year of the world 3105,' was believed to be as real a personage as William the Conqueror or Henry the Eighth. These tales, once universally accepted, have long since disappeared from English history, because the writers, on whose authority they rested, had no possible means of ascertaining their truth.

In ancient history, however, a different canon of criticism has prevailed almost down to the present day. Stories consecrated by the belief of ages seemed to claim a prescriptive right to belief. A kind of halo rested upon every portion of Greek and Roman literature, and it appeared almost as presumptuous to


« PreviousContinue »