HL Deb 25 July 1864 vol 176 cc2002-4

in moving an Address for Copy of the Report of the Commissioners lately appointed on the Fresco Paintings in the Palace of Westminster, and of a Letter addressed by Lord Redesdale to those Commissioners in relation to the continued Occupation of the Peers Robing Room for the purpose of such Paintings by which the Peers attending certain Committees have been so long subjected to great Inconvenience, said, it would be in the recollection of the House that three years ago a Commission had been appointed to inquire into the manner in which a certain room appropriated to one of the Committees of the House had been kept from that use by being occupied by an artist who was decorating it. The Committee was very indul- gent to the artist, and contented itself by expressing a hope that he would give up possession of the room at the earliest possible moment. Three years had since elapsed, and he had felt it his duty to call attention to the fact. He thought that the room should not be decorated by any more paintings. The artist, Mr. Herbert, had managed the lights with great skill on the wall which he had selected; but he believed that if any further paintings were placed on the other walls the arrangement of the light was such that they would not be seen to the same advantage as the excellent work with which the artist had already decorated the room. Besides it was not altogether desirable that paintings should be placed in a room intended for business. It always attracted a constant flow of visitors, but being placed opposite the door persons coming in could see it without much moving about; if, however, paintings were placed on all the four walls, the visitors would be always moving about the room, to the great disturbance of business. If any further paintings were desired, the Painted Chamber was open to decoration; but he hoped something would be done to restore the Committee-room to which he referred as soon as possible to the use for which it was intended.


as a member of the Commission, said, the Commission had presented its Report, and there would, no doubt, be no objection, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, to produce the documents moved for. In the present case the Commissioners had thought it right to recommend a considerable increase upon the sum agreed to be paid for Mr. Herbert's picture, which he believed the public had seen with the greatest admiration. In doing that, however, the Commissioners had recommended that the contract should be broken, and that either party should be free to enter into a fresh engagement, before any new work was begun. There was but one circumstance which they thought justified the re-opening of such a contract, and that was the novelty of the process employed—namely, the water-glass process; but as sufficient experience had now been obtained, he hoped that the precedent would not hereafter be followed. The Commissioners had expressed their opinion that it was not for the honour of British artists, nor was it just to the British public, that engagements they had entered into of this nature should be violated, and nothing could tend more to discourage the Government from entering into engagements with artists than to find that they were afterwards subject to great expenses which they had not contemplated, and that it was impossible to lay on the table of the House any reliable estimates of the cost of these pictures. The noble Lord would see that it was for the Government to say whether they would think it right to go on with the work in the rest of the room. The noble Lord had alluded to a letter which he wrote to the Commissioners. That letter had engaged the attention of the Commissioners, but they had not inserted it in the appendix to their Report, as it was not on the subject immediately referred to them.


thought it due to Mr. Herbert to state that that gentleman was not justly liable to the accusations which had just been brought forward. The original work which Mr. Herbert had undertaken was of a very different character from the one he had executed, and which might have been finished in a much shorter time. Indeed Mr. Herbert had made considerable progress in it; what he had done was destroyed at the suggestion of the late Prince Consort, who desired to see it executed in work of a more permanent character. He (Earl Nelson) would venture to express a hope that some arrangement would be made by which, at least, another picture, corresponding to the one completed, would be secured from the hand of the same distinguished artist.


understood the noble Lord (Lord Taunton) to make no accusation against Mr. Herbert, but rather to justify, by anticipation, an increased remuneration to that artist. There was no objection to produce the papers moved for.

Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at half past Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.