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Months before its completion in the summer of 1845, the garden pavilion emerged as a site of narrative contest over the taste of Victoria and Albert, the capabilities of British artists, the efficacy of royal patronage, and the viability of the state-sponsored project to decorate the new Houses of Parliament with frescoes. Ranging from effusive praise to blistering criticism, responses recorded by Queen Victoria, Benjamin Robert Haydon, William M. Thackeray, Anna Jameson, and anonymous authors writing for the periodical press constitute a dialogic reception history that re-presents the garden pavilion as a controversial hub of artistic activity. Considered as such, the small pavilion not only provides grounds for rejecting monolithic models of “Victorian” aesthetics but also provokes new arguments about the Victorian arts.
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RA/VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 3 March 1844 (Princess Beatrice’s Copies). Retrieved 25 Sept. 2015.
“The Garden Pavilion at Buckingham Palace” 182–83.
“Samuel Carter Hall” 11. According to Helene Roberts 1970, the Art-Union (retitled the Art Journal in 1849) “overshadowed other art periodicals for the rest of the century” (“British Art Periodicals” 3). As Hazel Morris 2002 notes, the status of the journal made it a prime target for lampoons in Punch, which occasionally “referred to The Art Union as the ‘Pecksniffery,’” and thus contributed to speculation that Hall was the model for Dickens’s fictional Mr. Pecksniff in Martin Chuzzlewit (51–54).
“Queen’s Summer House, Buckingham Gardens” 37.
RA/VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 15 July 1843 (Princess Beatrice’s Copies). Retrieved 25 September 2015. In his detailed and sympathetic account of Etty’s trials “beneath the frigid sunshine of august Patronage,” Alexander Gilchrist 1855 remarked, “An uneducated—or superficially educated—Taste cannot understand a Picture deficient in finish.…To blunt perceptions, the elaborate finish of a Tea-board or a [painting by Franz Xaver] Winterhalter [one of Queen Victoria’s favorite painters] counts for more than the poetic thought boldly dashed in by inspired hands, in all the glow of genius” ( Life of William Etty 2:164–65).
Etty had studied extensively in France and Italy and became a full member of the Royal Academy in 1829. He was also one of the experts appointed by the Fine Arts Commission to judge the cartoons exhibited at Westminster Hall in 1843 (Farr 1958, 95).
Like fresco, encaustic (derived from a Greek word meaning “to burn in”) was an ancient technique revived by nineteenth-century artists. In encaustic painting, pigments were mixed with melted wax, applied to a surface, and then fixed, or burned in, with heat. Decorations executed in this way were at once more brilliant and more durable than frescoes. For a detailed contemporary account of both media and differences between them, see William Benjamin Sarsfield Taylor’s 1843, Manual of Fresco and Encaustic Painting.
RA/VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 26 June 1844 (Princess Beatrice’s Copies). Retrieved 25 September 2015.
RA/VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 11 November 1844 (Princess Beatrice’s Copies). Retrieved 25 September 2015.
RA/VIC/MAIN/QVJ (w) 3 March 1844 (Princess Beatrice’s Copies). Retrieved 25 September 2015.
On the same page, the newspaper introduced its coverage of the exhibition with an illustration of “Her Majesty’s Visit to the Royal Academy.”
Less than a month later, on 8 June 1844, the Illustrated London News continued its coverage of the exhibition at the Royal Academy with an engraving of Etty’s “Scene from Comus.” After acknowledging that it was only a “sketch,” the newspaper enthused, “no work of its kind with which we are acquainted conveys at once such a rare combination of graceful forms and rich colouring. We trust the fresco, for which it is the study, may be equally successful, and become a subject of as much pleasure to her Majesty as the picture before us has been to many of her tasteful subjects” (373).
In Milton’s Comus, the character identified as “the Lady” is not a mythological nature spirit, but a well-schooled and serious young woman who resists the temptations of the enchanter Comus with disquisitions on the virtues of temperance and chastity. When the masque was first performed in 1634 to celebrate the installation of the Earl of Bridgewater as Lord President of Wales, his fifteen-year-old daughter, Lady Alice Egerton, assumed the part of “the Lady,” which Milton had written especially for her. The doctrinal content of the Lady’s speeches was usually severely condensed or omitted altogether in adaptations of the masque for the London stage.
As Richard Pearson 2000 explains, Thackeray’s Titmarsh persona is a complex “periodical identity” that not only called “attention to the artifice of periodical authority” (21), but also enabled him to satirize “the magazine industry’s casual approach to reporting” (39). It is both a “method of holding together the dissipating of the author’s identity in the ephemeral confusion of the press, and a deliberate fracturing of the integrity and reliability of the corporate periodical tone” (42).
The Art-Union had previously reported, “It is understood…that the artists undertook the work without regard to pecuniary advantage; being as they ought to have been—desirous of seconding the views of the Prince in his experiment” (“Queen’s Summer House” 37).
Dyce had acquired first-hand knowledge of fresco painting through his study in Italy and his association with the German Nazarenes, forebears of the Pre-Raphaelite painters in England (Pointon 1979, 13–15). Following the successful completion of his fresco in the garden pavilion, Dyce received commissions to paint larger frescoes in the new Houses of Parliament and in Osborne House, Victoria and Albert’s private home on the Isle of Wight.
Thackeray launched similar attacks on royal patronage in a pseudonymous letter (“Mr. Smith’s Reasons for Not Sending His Pictures to the Exhibition”) and a pseudonymous poem (“A Painter’s Wish”). Both were published in the 5 April 1845 issue of Punch. As Dennis Farr suggests, “Thackeray’s biting sarcasm was directed at royal parsimony partly because it was an issue which could be used to express a more general dislike for the Prince” as a relatively unknown foreigner (97).
Interestingly enough, some six years earlier Thackeray’s Titmarsh had evinced no small measure of squeamishness himself when he remarked that “a great, large curtain of fig-leaves should be hung over every one of [Etty’s] pictures” (“Second Lecture on the Fine Arts” 745).
“Pavilion at Buckingham Palace.”
Ruskin in Italy, 216.
For a summary of favorable reviews, see Johnston 1997, 154–56.
According to the Hon. Amelia Murray, a presentation copy of Jameson’s Handbook sent to Queen Victoria “elicited one of her beaming smiles, such as are rarely bestowed save upon her own husband” (qtd. in Thomas 1967, 164). In 1851, Victoria granted Jameson an annual pension of £ 100, thanks, in part, to the intervention of Thackeray and other friends (Thomas 190, 194).
The Annual Register, the Gentleman’s Magazine, and the Times, for example, all silently appropriated Jameson’s description of the pavilion as “picturesque and fantastic, without any regular style of architecture” ( Decorations 6). As Helene Roberts 1982 observes, such borrowings were not at all unusual in Victorian art criticism. Periodicals that sought to impose higher standards, she notes, often complained that critics writing for other venues were “ignorant, self-interested, often borrowed from each other, and merely passed along fashionable opinions” (“Exhibition and Review” 87).
“Garden Pavilion in the Grounds of Buckingham Palace” 259.
Jameson, in a remarkably critical paragraph of her Introduction, wrote: “In the selection of the subjects the artists were left free, and the result proves the absolute necessity of a presiding mind, when it is intended that diversity of parts shall blend into a well-ordered whole; for here we find that three of the subjects are nearly similar, yet presenting, even in in their monotony, a sort of inconsistency, for we have three different Ladies on three different chairs; while two subjects are absolutely identical” ( Decorations 7).
“Queen’s Pavilion” 499.
I am grateful to Chris Thorpe in Library Services at City University London for checking the editorial files and identifying Chorley as the likely author.
“Summer-House at Buckingham Palace” 719. The absurd pretensions of Mrs. Rafferty are exposed in Chapter 6 of Edgeworth’s novel The Absentee (1812).
The Athenaeum’s assessment of Dyce’s fresco was shared by a number of experts, including Haydon. After visiting the pavilion on 24 May 1845, Haydon noted in his diary, “[Dyce’s] Fresco, though in parts ferociously German, is the best. Eastlake’s was, but Dyce has fairly beaten him” (5: 1845).
The Annual Register, echoing Jameson in some places and the Athenaeum in others, reported that the frescoes failed to demonstrate “sufficient experience in the treatment of the material to justify its adoption in any work of importance” (“The Pavilion at Buckingham Palace” 108).
Anxieties over the scarcity and high cost of food mounted in the summer of 1845 as unusually rainy weather threatened the harvest. According to one report published in the Morning Chronicle on 9 August (the same day that Thackeray’s ballad was published in Punch), a continuation of the bad weather would have “the most lamentable results”: “embarrassments to trade, the prostration of enterprise, the derangement of the money market, from the effect of which railway speculations could not escape, and in privations and sufferings of no ordinary nature and extent.”
“Visit to the Garden Pavilion in the Grounds of Buckingham Palace” 129. Initially edited by William Chambers, the weekly journal appealed to a large audience, including “the elite of the laboring community” (qtd. in Sullivan 1983, 95). Between 1837 and 1858, the journal was edited by William’s brother, Robert Chambers, the author of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844).
Rev. of Decorations of the Garden-Pavilion in the Grounds of Buckingham Palace.
“Garden Pavilion of Buckingham Palace” 376.
Zurück zum Zitat Farr, Dennis. William Etty. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958. Print. Farr, Dennis. William Etty. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958. Print.
Zurück zum Zitat Grüner, Ludwig. Descriptions of the Plates of Fresco Decorations and Stuccoes of Churches and Palaces in Italy During the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. London: McLean, 1844. Print. Grüner, Ludwig. Descriptions of the Plates of Fresco Decorations and Stuccoes of Churches and Palaces in Italy During the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries. London: McLean, 1844. Print.
Zurück zum Zitat Pointon, Marcia. William Dyce, 1806–1864: A Critical Biography. Oxford: Clarendon, 1979. Print. Pointon, Marcia. William Dyce, 1806–1864: A Critical Biography. Oxford: Clarendon, 1979. Print.
Zurück zum Zitat Thomas, Clara. Love and Work Enough: The Life of Anna Jameson. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1967. Print. Thomas, Clara. Love and Work Enough: The Life of Anna Jameson. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1967. Print.
- The Contested Status of the Garden Pavilion: “Perfect ‘Bijou’” or Royal Blunder?
Sharon M. Setzer
- Palgrave Macmillan US