HC Deb 01 August 1855 vol 139 cc1619-22

The report of the Committee of Supply was then brought up and read by the clerk at the Table.

The twelve first Resolutions agreed to.

(13.) 17,696l., for the National Gallery.


said, he should move the reduction of the Vote by the amount of 300l. proposed as the salary of a travelling agent, and 1,155l. 4s. as incidental and travelling expenses for such agent. He found that, in order to enable the Trustees and Directors of the National Gallery to obtain valuable pictures which might be offered for sale on the Continent, it was proposed that a travelling agent should be employed at a salary of 300l. a-year, who might obtain the earliest information on such subjects. He considered the appointment quite unnecessary, for in every important city or town in Europe where there was any valuable collection of pictures there was either a British Minister or Consul, who would be able to acquaint Her Majesty's Government when any pictures of value were likely to be offered for sale. He understood that a German gentleman, Mr. Otto Mündler, had received the appointment of travelling agent; but they knew nothing of the qualifications of that gentleman for the post, and he thought if such an appointment was really considered necessary, that, among our numerous native artists, some one might have been found upon whom such an appointment might have been properly conferred.


said, that the House had that year voted the sum of 10,000l. to enable the trustees of the National Gallery to purchase pictures during the current year, and it was probable that an annual Vote of similar amount would be made in future. It was, of course, perfectly useless to vote money for such a purpose unless means were taken to secure valuable pictures whenever they might be offered for sale. The hon. Member for Stafford had said that we had Consuls and Ministers abroad who could afford information to Her Majesty's Government with reference to such sales; but it must be remembered that valuable works of art were to be found not merely in large cities, but in small towns, and that their existence was only known to those who were intimately acquainted with the arts. The Ministers and Consuls of Great Britain were appointed in consequence of their fitness for the special duties they were called upon to discharge, and, generally speaking, they were not gentlemen upon whose judgment the trustees of the National Gallery could rely with regard to the purchase of pictures. He could only say, with regard to Mr. Mündler, that the trustees had endeavoured to select the person who was most competent to discharge the duties of the office, and that Mr. Mündler was well known in every city of Europe, and was thoroughly acquainted with all the valuable collections of pictures. Lord Aberdeen, before he went out of office, appointed Mr. Mündler upon the highest recommendation, and without any personal knowledge of that gentleman. It must be remembered that the person who received such an appointment should not only possess a knowledge of the most valuable pictures in the galleries of Europe, but should also have an intimate acquaintance with the continental languages. Undoubtedly, if any English artist had been equally eligible for the appointment, he would have had a prior claim; but, upon the recommendation of the trustees Lord Aberdeen had appointed Mr. Mündler, and he (Mr. Wilson) hoped the House would sanction the Vote required for the payment of his salary and expenses.


said, he wished to know whether the money was to be employed in reimbursing that gentleman for expenses he had already incurred?


said, that no expenses had yet been incurred by that gentleman.


said, considering that there were English artists who were perfectly capable of discharging the duties of the office to which Mr. Mündler had been appointed; he would support the Amendment.


said, he wished to know whether the travelling agent was to have unlimited power with regard to the expenditure of the l0,000l. to be appropriated to the purchase of pictures?


replied, that the duty of the travelling agent would be to proceed from place to place under the direction of the Trustees of the National Gallery, and to report to them upon any pictures which he thought were of value, acting subsequently upon such instructions as he might receive from them.


said, he considered that the appointment of Mr. Mündler was an insult to the artists of this country.


said, he thought it necessary that the person appointed to such a situation should be thoroughly acquainted with foreign languages, and that on that ground Mr. Mündler might be well fitted for the office.

Question put, "That 17,696l. stand part of the Resolution."

The House divided,—Ayes 45; Noes 38: Majority 7.

Resolution agreed to, as were also Resolutions 14 to 31 inclusive.

(32.) 52,500l., War Medals.


said, he wished to ask what arrangements had been made for the distribution of medals to the relatives of those who had died in the Crimea; and whether any arrangements had been made for a more rapid delivery of medals to those soldiers who had been discharged?


said, the first step taken with regard to these medals was to obtain a list of the officers and soldiers entitled to receive them. Lists had accordingly been sent home from time to time, and those lists were referred to the Secretary of the Board of General Officers. When a person in England made application for his medal, all the Secretary had to do, was to ascertain that his name was on the list, and the medal was obtained without any difficulty whatever. With regard to those who were now in the Crimea, medals had been sent to the Commander in Chief to have them distributed there among the claimants. When applications were made at home for medals by the relatives of soldiers deceased, the first duty of the War Office was to ascertain that the claim was a good one, and the next that the person applying was entitled to receive the medal. When those points were ascertained, the medal, together with the effects of the soldier, was sent; an if there had been delay in any case, it had only arisen from the necessity of the War-Office determining who were the legal representatives of the soldiers.

Resolution agreed to, as were also the remaining Resolutions.