HC Deb 16 July 1863 vol 172 cc933-4

said, he rose to call attention to a recent purchase by the Trustees of the National Gallery of a picture which was in a damaged condition, which was obviously not by the Master to whom it was attributed (Bellini), and for which six hundred guineas were paid. A companion picture, in much better condition, and altogether a better picture, was purchased at the same time by Mr. Baring for £250. He did not wish to raise a discussion on the merits of that picture, but wanted to point out that it was the duty of the Trustees to take care not to buy at large prices any but genuine pictures in a good condition, and pictures well known in the history of art. He wished to ask whether it was not desirable to discontinue the practice of acquiring at a high price pictures which are not authentic works of the masters to whom they are attributed, and which are in a damaged condition.


said, he believed his hon. Friend was a good authority on matters of taste, but he must say that on this occasion his criticism was misapplied. He (Mr. Peel) placed more confidence in the Director of the National Gallery, who was responsible to the nation for the pictures he purchased. With regard to this particular picture, there was no doubt whatever that it was painted dome time from 1450 to 1460, which was during the time that Bellini lived, and the best authorities were of opinion that it was painted by Bellini himself, and that was the opinion of Sir Charles Eastlake. With regard to the picture being in bad condition, Sir Charles Eastlake informed him that the only injury was to a portion of the sky, and that the picture was in a very good state of preservation; and with regard to the price, before it was purchased the Trustees asked Sir Charles Eastlake what he thought it would fetch, and he said between £500 and £600. It was bought for 600 guineas; so that he did not think they had been much deceived as to the price.


said, he did not believe the picture was by Bellini, and it was certainly in a damaged condition. Sir Charles Eastlake had a stipend as Director of the National Gallery, and travelling expenses, yet he allowed pictures to be sold at home under his nose for small sums which he afterwards bought at extravagant prices for the National Gallery. No time should be lost in turning the Royal Academy out of Trafalgar Square. ["Question!"] That was the question when they were buying new pictures, and could not find room for them. The Royal Academy had received the promise of a site, and that was all they were entitled to. Let them go to South Kensington, where their wealthy patrons lived.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

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