§ (6.) £165,708, Public Education.
§ (7.) £7,000, Science and Art Department.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, that question did not arise on the present Vote. The matter would be brought forward on the ordinary Estimates.
§ MR. SEXTON
asked, whether the Report of the Commission and the scheme laid down for the development of Art Education in Ireland by Professor Sullivan had been taken into consideration?
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, he would prefer not to make any statement on that matter at present. The Report of the Commission had nothing to do with this Vote. The grant was one in which Ireland shared in precisely the same degree as England and Scotland.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, it was evident that the right hon. Gentleman had not seen the document referred to, as it referred especially to grants.
§ Vote agreed to.
(8.) Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £83,620, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1885, for the Salaries and Expenses of the National Gallery.
§ MR. CUBITT
said, the amount of this grant was so exceptional that he thought it unnecessary to make any excuse for addressing the Committee on the subject. Whatever opinion there might be on the question involved, he thought that it was a Vote which ought not to be passed over silently. The Government proposed to give £87,500 for two pictures—that was to say, dividing the amount, £70,000 for one picture, and £17,500 for the other. This was an enormous price to pay for two pictures; and the sum was so large that it required some little consideration to realize its 188 magnitude. He had seen, a short time since, an ingenious calculation, which turned the amount of £70,000 into halfpence, and showed that it represented a half-penny from every man, woman, and child in the United Kingdom. In other words, it represented a perpetual annuity of £2,000 a-year on the finances of the country, or £5 or £6 a-day for ever, and that simply for the purchase of one work of Art, without taking into account other expenses connected with it. It was also interesting to compare the cost of these pictures with some of the amounts derived from taxation at the present time. He found that it came very nearly to the amount which the Chancellor of the Exchequer obtained from Auctioneers' Licences; that it exceeded the sum he received from the Gun Tax, as well as that received from Armorial Bearings; it was more than two-thirds of the sum produced by the Tax for Male Servants, and was equal to that of the interest paid on the Two and a-Half per Cent Annuities before the recent transaction of the right hon. Gentleman. Finally, it was nearly half of the sum squeezed out of the Government for the repairs of the highways. These comparisons were, ho thought, sufficient to show to the Committee that the amount in question was a very large one. There was another question which arose on the Vote. Was this the time when a large sum of this kind ought to be voted? It was a time of great and increasing depression in trade—not only in agriculture, but in all branches of trade; it was a time of heavy war expenses, and it was a time of rumours of war. They had been told, even that evening, of the great calls made on account of the Navy, not only for the purpose of war, but for the purpose of the defence of the country. They knew that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was preparing his Budget, and that the expenditure was so great that people must shudder when they thought of the consequences. Putting aside the exceptional state of things at the present moment, he asked whether it was wise for a Government to pay extreme prices for works of Art? The National Gallery had been formed by bequests and donations partly, and partly by purchases. But if Her Majesty's Government paid extreme prices for works of Art, would they not thereby discourage donations, 189 and would not persons be eager to obtain those vast sums instead of leaving their pictures to the nation? This purchase was one of the first results of the new law allowing the sale of heirlooms. The possessors of the picture might be right in saying that they had one of the best works of Art in the country; but to say there would never be another work of Art in the country equal to it was saying rather too much. Again, he believed that the Trustees of the National Gallery were entitled to a grant of £10,000 a-year, which was subject to their own discretion and the control of the Treasury as to the way in which they spent it; but he thought he was right in saying that no further grant was to be made to the National Gallery Trustees until the annual ordinary grants amounted to the sum paid for these pictures, the consequence of which would be that if constant sales of pictures, as was in the present state of the country likely to happen, were to continue, it would be impossible for the Trustees of the National Gallery to have its share of them owing to the want of money. The case was the same with regard to the National Portrait Gallery, which from having made a costly purchase was prevented from buying for some time. He thought that this condition ought to be removed. The National Gallery had not purchased since 1859 any single picture at a cost of more than £10,000. Two of the largest purchases ever made by the Trustees of the National Gallery for single pictures were when it gave, in 1857, £13,650 for a Paul Yeronese—The Family of Darius—and £9,000 for a Madonna by Raphael. During the time of Sir Charles Eastlake, pictures for the National Gallery were bought at an average cost of under £700, and he need not, therefore, trouble the Committee with any comparison in respect of those works of Art. He would only give two examples of the largest prices ever paid for pictures, and then he thought the subject would have been placed pretty fully before the Committee. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in conversation with a deputation which waited on him, had mentioned that he believed a Prince of Orange once bought a Rubens for £24,000. And in the extravagant times of the Second Empire, when Marshal Soult's Collection was brought to the hammer, there was an 190 extraordinary contest between three great nations for his celebrated Murillo, and it brought 615,300 francs, or about £24,000. He thought these examples showed that there was reason for the Committee to pause before giving such a price for these pictures as was now asked. Now, with regard to the correspondence that had taken place. First of all he would refer to the requisition in favour of these purchases, signed by members of the Royal Academy, and forwarded to the Prime Minister by Sir Frederick Leighton. He did not wish to criticize minutely the verbiage of this Memorial, because artists were not disposed to take the same view of these matters as was taken by Members of Parliament, and it would be sufficient for him to say that on the occasion referred to the members of the Royal Academy avowed that they addressed the Prime Minister under "strong emotion." But he should like to say a word or two with reference to the letter addressed to the right hon. Gentleman by Sir Frederick Leighton, who said it would be impossible to overstate the anxiety felt by the whole artistic community—Partly because the occasion is one of an absolutely unique and unprecedented kind.And he went on to say—We are accustomed to look to you as to one absolutely fearless in the carrying out of an elevated idea, and we believe that your championship will not be wanting to us on an occasion of which the like cannot recur, and in a cause which must on so many grounds commend itself to your inmost sympathies.Now, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister was not in the House at the moment; if he were, he believed he would say that there were financial and other reasons which should make him a little cautious in carrying out this elevated idea. However, he would pass from that; they were accustomed to emotional language when artists took to the pen. He came now to the second Memorial to the Prime Minister, from persons who he supposed were called the Art-supporters of the country, amongst whose names he saw that of the hon. Baronet the Member for Lisburn (Sir Richard Wallace). The Memorial did not recommend any sum to be given, but only asked the Government to keep in view the approaching disposal of this great Collection—
191The Directors of every Continental Museum," they said, "are on the alert, and all hope that some of the treasures of the Marlborough Collection will be added to their own walls.On this he would say, had any foreign Government bought any of these pictures? Now, he was quite aware that the Government in this matter was under a very great difficulty, because it was quite impossible that the negotiations could be kept secret; but he thought he could 3how that persons inside and outside the House had increased the difficulties of the Government in making a bargain. He came now to another point—the proposal which the Trustees of the National Gallery sent to the Prime Minister. He believed that the Trustees had no part in the finances, and that the valuation of pictures entirely depended on the Director, and it was to a letter of that Director that he now asked the attention of the Committee. Sir Frederick Burton, Director and Financial Adviser, wrote to the Prime Minister, and his letter contained the following paragraph:—The value of any great production of genius in money is a thing not easily to be determined. It resolves itself simply into a question of what the vendor will take and the purchaser give for an article combining the highest qualities with extreme rarity. Considering that these conditions are fulfilled in those pictures which are now placed at the disposal of Her Majesty's Government, I cannot feel any hesitation in expressing my opinion that even the large sum of 400,000 guineas would not exceed their value; and that in accepting them at that price the nation would in the end be the gainer.Those were the words of a gentleman who had the control of the financial arrangements of the National Gallery, and he could not but regret that such a letter was ever published, because, however valuable the opinion of Sir Frederick Burton might be, it would be impossible for him ever to obtain a picture in future at a moderate price. He now came to three letters which had passed between the National Gallery and the late Secretary to the Treasury and Mr. Barrington. It appeared from the letter that the Treasury seemed to have had the idea that the Trustees were supporting Sir Frederick Burton in the valuation of the pictures; but the letter of Mr. Eastlake, dated the 10th of June, showed that the Trustees very firmly declined any responsibility, and left the 192 matter in the hands of Sir Frederick Burton. He passed to the second letter of Sir Frederick Burton, who professed to give an opinion as to the value of the pictures in the Collection if they were exposed to public competition. He valued 11 of the pictures at 263,500 guineas, and added—These prices united fall considerably short of the amount which the Duke of Marlborough demands for the whole. But it will be for Her Majesty's Government to consider whether this discrepancy, notwithstanding the associations connected with most of the works named in the list, and, far more, the fact that they are in this country, and that a feeling strong and universal prevails that they should, if at all possible, be retained in it, would not justify the acceptance of the terms offered by the Duke of Marlborough rather than that these invaluable works of Art should be lost to the present and future generations in England.Therefore, it was clear that Sir Frederick Burton was quite ready to close, regardless of cost, the bargain for the pictures. As one versed in Art, his opinion was that these pictures were worth anything to the nation, though the vendor or his agent appeared to put forward no plea that they were considering the nation, or going to make the nation a donation. The whole thing was done simply in the hard-and-fast way of a bargain; the 11 pictures must be bought together, the Duke of Marlborough having declined to sell a smaller number at a proportionately lower price. On page 11 of the correspondence a very important stage of the negotiations was reached. There was the letter of the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for East Cumberland (Mr. G. Howard), one of the Trustees. But there was, of course, some former correspondence left out, because the letter began—I revert to the question of the Blenheim Pictures;it referred, probably, to correspondence which, like that of Sir Frederick Burton, was not adapted for publication. In that letter the Prime Minister said—We are, however, prepared to stretch a point to secure, if possible, the Raphael, and, perhaps, the Vandyke, together with the first on the list of the Rubens' (The Garden of I he Hesperides); and I am in a position to authorize the Trustees to make an offer of £70,000 for the Raphael, or of £100,000 for the three pictures, subject, of course, to the sanction of Parliament.Now, he would ask the attention of the Committee for a moment to the Memo- 193 randum of the proceedings of a deputation which waited on the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the 2nd of July last—that was to say, nearly a week after the Prime Minister had made up his mind. The Chancellor of the Exchequer did not seem to be acquainted with what had taken place between the National Gallery and the Prime Minister; he received the deputation, accordingly, in a cautious and guarded way; he reminded them that the largest price ever paid for a picture was £24,000. And, although he said that he would inform the Government of the views of the deputation, he did not give them any hope that the purchase would be made; but on the 4th of July Mr. Eastlake wrote to the agent of the Duke of Marlborough, in accordance with the Prime Minister's decision, offering £70,000 for the one picture or £ 100,000 for the three. The Prime Minister, however, having made up his mind to stretch a point, did not stretch it further; but remained firm at the offer of £70,000. A sort of round-robin was signed, on the 4th of July, by several Members of that House, which, strange to say, was headed by the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), and for which he believed the hon. Member for Cricklade (Mr. Story-Maskelyne) was answerable. [Mr. STORY-MA SKELYJSTB dissented.] Well, it was a most extraordinary document, and the words of one of its paragraphs were—The price that we ask the Government to be prepared to offer for these real masterpieces, even if limited to that at which they are valued by the Director of the National Gallery, is in either case unprecedented. But so is the occasion; and it is because the occasion is quite unprecedented, and so unlikely ever to recur, that we urge the Government to step outside the hard line of a severe economy in order, at one stroke, to raise to a higher level the collection of pictures of which the whole nation is proud, and which is a source of widespread and refined enjoyment to the poor as to the rich.He could hardly believe that, when this Memorial was passed round the Lobby, many of his hon. Friends knew what they were signing—they were willing to pay £100,000 for two pictures for which the Prime Minister had offered a much lower sum; and he believed that the moral of this was that round-robins in the Lobby were rather to be avoided, because hon. Members were not likely 194 to be always quite satisfied when the result of their recommendation appeared in the Estimates. The result of the deputation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the account of the round-robin being sent to the Prime Minister, of course, got to the knowledge of Mr. Davis, the agent managing the sale for the Duke of Marlborough; and the effect of this was a letter from Mr. Davis, dated 147, New Bond Street, the 5th of July, to Mr. Eastlake, mentioning that he was instructed by His Grace to say that—He has reason to believe that there are other purchasers for these pictures.In short, the bargain was entirely repudiated. Therefore, he thought he was justified in saying that the round-robin did not assist the Prime Minister in obtaining the pictures at a more moderate price. Then he came nearly to the end of the negotiation. On the 12th of July the Secretary to the Treasury again wrote to the Trustees and Director of the National Gallery, stating that the Treasury were prepared to submit a Vote to Parliament for £85,000 for the purchase of the two paintings. The offer was then repeated by Mr. Eastlake to Mr. Davis, who, finding that the Prime Minister was firm at the offer of £70,000 for the Raphael, and that he could get no more money, on August 9 closed with the offer, and the purchase was settled. There then remained only the Vandyke, and he was sorry to say that all this grandiloquent correspondence had a very shabby ending. The Government offered£l5,000 for it, and the agent wanted more, and the result of that was that they did what other vendors and purchasers generally did under similar circumstances—they split the difference, and the picture was bought for £17,500. He believed he had shown that this was a question which the Committee ought to consider; and having thought very carefully whether he ought to propose to diminish the Vote, he was afraid that his only course would be to divide the Committee on the question whether this purchase ought to be completed or not. If, in taking that course, he carried the Committee with him, he should have the satisfaction of having saved the country a large expenditure; and if he did not succeed in doing so, he should have made his protest against the Vote, which protest might have some effect in 195 deterring other Governments from paying these large sums under similar circumstances on future occasions. He believed that a Vote of this kind could always be obtained if the subject could be considered sufficient to attract public attention; but he would remind the Committee that if they inquired at the public Institutions, they would be frequently told that the money at the disposal of the managers was insufficient to enable them to take proper measures for the display of their Collections. He believed that if one-tenth of the sum now asked for were spent on the arrangements of their National Collections, more benefit would accrue to Science and Art than would result from the possession of the objects for which this sensational Vote was demanded. Finally, there was one observation which he wished to make. Mr. Frederick Harrison, one of the deputation which waited on the Chancellor of the Exchequer on that occasion, was reported to have spoken warmly of the interest shown by the working classes, especially in the North of England, in the Collections at Nottingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, and other towns, and to have expressed the opinion that they were invariably in favour of the purchase of great works of Art, even at very high prices, when recommended by those who were conversant with such matters; and Lord Aberdare also pointed out that no act of Mr. Lowe's, while Chancellor of the Exchequer, was more popular than the purchase of the Peel Collection. It seemed to him (Mr. Cubitt) that there was an advantage to the classes referred to in the arrangement recently made to distribute works of Art over the country under certain conditions, and that this would be more prized by the working classes than extravagant purchases of this kind.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDERS)
said, the right hon. Gentleman had concluded with the remark that the Government should, as far as possible, carry out a system of lending works of Art from the Metropolis to the Provinces. In certain cases that had been done, and he was sure that his noble Friend the President of the Committee of Council on Education would do all that lay in his power to extend the application of that principle. The right hon. Gentleman had remarked 196 that this was an extravagant purchase; but he also combined with that remark a very curious suggestion on the point of economy. He said in effect—"If you do carry out this purchase, by all means do not stop any future Vote for the purchase of pictures."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUEE (Mr. CHILDERS)
said, he did not see any difference between an ordinary sum and a large sum; but, as a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman did suggest what was the reverse of economy. The simple narrative of the whole transaction was that the National Gallery was avowedly deficient in the highest examples of Art. The unfortunate dispersal of the Gallery of Charles I., which scattered some of the most important works of the great Masters all over Europe, had been a great misfortune to this country; and the result was that while at the Louvre, at Madrid, at Dresden, at Florence, at the Hermitage, and elsewhere, there were great and worthy examples of Raphael, there was in the National Gallery nothing approaching to what this country ought to possess of this Master, if it desired to have a Gallery of the great Masters fairly emulating the Galleries abroad. When this proposal, therefore, for the sale of the Blenheim Collection was made to them, he confessed that the sympathies of the Government were strongly in favour of purchasing one or two great works, provided they could make this purchase on terms which should appear to them reasonable, having regard to the price of pictures at the present time. The Ansidei Madonna was certainly a picture of a most remarkable character in connection with the life of Raphael and the three different manners through which his painting passed; and he thought those who had seen his pictures, especially in Italy and other foreign capitals, would agree with him in saying that this picture was an example of extreme value, and one which, if it could be bought at a reasonable price, should not be lost to the country. He believed the Government were asked, in the first instance, £160,000 for this picture; it was valued then by Sir Frederick Burton at 110,000 guineas, and, whatever the right hon. Gentleman might say, Sir Frederick Burton was a 197 great authority; and the Government came to the conclusion, after carefully considering what had been paid, not in former, but of late years, for great works of Art, and the continuing increase in their value—knowing something of what was going on with respect to offers for these pictures contemplated by other persons, that they might offer £70,000, and having decided to make that offer they never departed from it. They made the offer, in the first instance, on the 6th of June. The Duke of Marlborough persisted in his demand until early in August, and, when he found the Government were firm, accepted the offer. They could not have got the picture for less; and the question, therefore, was whether they should offer £70,000 for this remarkable example of Raphael, or allow it to go to one of the great Collections on the Continent. They believed that the House would support them under the circumstances in making the offer of £70,000, subject to their sanction. The Duke of Marlborough knew that the offer was made subject to the approval of the House, and would have no ground for complaint if that approval was withheld; but Her Majesty's Government, knowing that the offer was a fair one, had no hesitation in asking the House for the amount of the Vote.
§ SIR GABRIEL GOLDNEY
said, he had very few remarks to make upon this subject. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Surrey (Mr. Cubitt) had done a very good service in drawing attention to this matter. Hon. Members ought to recollect that there were two sides to questions of this sort—people were apt to be carried away into a large expenditure, and next year, perhaps, something equally valuable and attractive cropped up, and equally likely to go abroad if it was not bought; and unless there was some control over these matters, it was very likely that they would be led away into further expense, and placed in a difficult position. Now, the Committee should consider the position of the National Gallery. It was of very great advantage to the country, no doubt, associated as it was with South Kensington. The National Gallery was established in 1824 for the purpose of forming a receptacle for public gifts. It was formed with the Angerstein Collection, which was for some time exhibited in Pall 198 Mall. Mr. Thomas Baring, in 1871—when the Peel Collection was brought before the public with a view to purchase—moved for a Return of the money which the nation had spent, and what they had acquired by purchase and gift since the formation of the Institution. That Return showed that, from 1824 to 1870, a period of 45 years, the House of Commons had voted as the largest amount in any one Vote £75,000 for one of the most valuable and beautiful Collections that had ever been acquired—a Collection of 70 pictures, called the Peel Collection—to which amount was to be added the annual cost of other purchases, amounting to about£7,800, which brought up the total expenditure to£337,000 for the time named. The Return further showed that, during the 45 years which had elapsed since the National Gallery was established, there had been presented to the nation 284 pictures; that 256 had been bequeathed and 313 purchased. The cost of the 313 pictures purchased amounted, at that date, to£254,527, or an average price of£800 each for the whole of those valuable works. It was delightful to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer speaking with such freedom from the considerations which usually restrained the right hon. Gentleman; but he (Sir Gabriel Goldney) said that the history of the National Gallery showed that they ought to limit their expenditure upon it to a certain amount every year, or they would be carried away too far by the fear of losing some valuable work of Art, which it would be said the country ought to secure at any price. The House should, in his opinion, determine that expenditure on these matters should be limited to a certain sum per annum.
§ MR. STORY-MASKELYNE
said, that, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Surrey had imported his name into the debate, he would ask the attention of the Committee for a few minutes. He did not shrink from owning that his hand was in the document quoted by the right hon. Gentleman; that he drew it up with the advice of some friends; and he was happy to say it received the signatures of influential Members on both sides of the House, including hon. Friends of his own, who represented the working classes in an especial manner. He thought the 199 last observations of the hon. Member? who had just sat down were very well worthy the attention of the Committee; and he might add that the desirability of taking some steps in the direction indicated had been present to his mind for some little time past. That, however, he did not think had anything to do with the question before the Committee. That question was whether, with regard to the two pictures, the hon. Members who had memorialized the Treasury had been acting in an extravagant spirit, carried away by emotion, or whether the proposal to purchase them was the result of long and careful consideration—whether, in short, those who urged the Government to take action were not actuated by a proper and just idea of what they owed at once to Art and to the principles of economy? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Surrey (Mr. Cubitt) had been kind enough to read some of the clauses of the document which had been signed by hon. Members with regard to those pictures; but he had omitted to read the last clause, which was the most important one of all, in which they said—We assure the Government that, to the best of our belief, our constituents and the whole nation will approve and applaud an expenditure, even though so large, for the special object in view; because it will be known that whatever price is paid will have been the result of much negotiation at the hands of the responsible Advisers of the Government.For his own part, he had been perfectly willing to leave the matter in the hands of the Government, and that they should decide what was the fair price that should be paid for these unique pictures. The Raphael was a unique picture, and the occasion of such a picture coining into the market was also unique; and they had, therefore, advised the Government to step out of the economical position which they usually occupied, and purchase the picture. He and his hon. Friends were not ashamed of that advice. He knew the picture, and had seen it illuminated with a powerful light in the splendid palace of Blenheim; and he could only say that if there were a Raphael in the world which illustrated the pictorial art in its highest form in the age of Raphael it was the picture in question. He need not go into the reasons which gave this picture 200 its special value in the history of the development of painting as exhibited in Raphael's work; he would only say that for wealth of colour it was, perhaps, the finest Raphael in the world. Such a picture placed on the walls of the National Gallery would be not for to-day or to-morrow, but for all days. In that Gallery it would be seen not only by the wealthy, who had pictures of their own, but by those who had not the opportunity of seeing such supreme works of Art elsewhere. During the 20 years that he was at the head of a department at the British Museum, he had observed what had been the effect from year to year of the increase in the number of works of high type, representing the noble Arts of Greece and Rome. He knew that its effect had been to increase the number of visitors of the artizan class, as well as of other classes; and they showed, by their scrutiny, the highest appreciation of them. Such scrutiny and the cultivation of taste which was born of it was one of the factors, and no small one, in the culture of a nation, and in a kind of culture which our nation greatly needs. But the question must be looked at from the point of view of the effect it was to have upon the England, not of to-day only, but of the future. In one of the Natural History Departments of the British Museum, the collection belonging to which lie largely formed, the most gratifying result was that he found that by degrees students came from Germany, America, France, and Italy to study and explore it, because, as they said, they were not educated in their science until they had studied that Collection. It was the same with the Art Collections in the Museums and National Gallery. The National Gallery had one unique advantage; the Collection had not been made by Kings and wealthy nobles, but, in a large degree, by men who were themselves artists, who knew Art in its highest form and in all its characters. It was made by men who meant it to be a History of Art, who intended it to be a Collection to which the student of Art could go to find an education; and where, no less, the wayfarer outside the profession of the artist could find a historical sequence in the Schools of Art and illustrations of the great Masters' work in each, whereby he might be led on step by step to a real enjoyment of the 201 highest and noblest works of Art. He hoped every Member of the House appreciated this aspect of the National Collection; he was persuaded that none appreciated it more than some of those who represented the artizan constituencies in the country. Those hon. Gentlemen were always ready to acknowledge the good they derived from a visit to the National Gallery. He was sorry for having detained the Committee be long; but he hoped he had given some reasons for having drawn up the Memorial which had been referred to, in not very complimentary terms, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Surrey (Mr. Cubitt).
§ MR. GEORGE HOWARD
said, the opinions of the Trustees of the National Gallery had been expressed very much in the Correspondence which had been published; but he should like to say a few words in justification of those opinions, and to explain away a few inferences which had been drawn from them by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cubitt). Of course, he could not say that the price proposed to be paid for the pictures was not a very large one indeed; but the real question was not whether the price was large, but whether the pictures were worth the money—whether they were paying for them now a price which they would not be able to get them for in a few years. He thought that this might be illustrated by -what had been already alluded to. The largest price ever paid for a Collection of pictures for the National Gallery was that paid for Sir Robert Peel's Collection. £75,000 was given for that Collection 15 years ago. At the time that sum was considered enormous, and, as had been said by an hon. Gentleman opposite, the Government, in giving it, were considered to be acting very generously in the interest of Art and Education. He, however, had the very highest authority for stating that the present market value of that Collection was not £75,000, but £200,000. Now, if they could look for a rise in the value of their National pictures at all equivalent to that in the case of Sir Robert Peel's pictures, it was almost impossible to calculate what the value of these particular pictures would be in a few years time, because, although the pictures of Sir Robert Peel were masterpieces in themselves, they were pictures 202 by Masters whose works were from time to time in the market in considerable numbers, whereas these pictures were absolutely unique. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cubitt) talked as if pictures turned up like products of Nature; but the Trustees of the National Gallery knew with absolute exactitude what pictures of these Masters there were in the world, and they could confidently say that the pictures in question were absolutely unique. The great picture by Raphael could, in the opinion of the best authorities, rank second only to one in Europe; he did not think there was another picture by Raphael that could be put above it in value, unless it were that at Dresden. The state of a picture was a matter which greatly affected its value; and the state of this picture was more perfect than that of any other easel picture by Raphael. The purchase of the great Vandyke had, perhaps, been more criticized than the purchase of Raphael; but he thought that the purchase recommended itself to the artistic world. It was a great equestrian picture, ranking with those by Titian or Velasquez at Madrid. Although Vandyke was a foreigner, he was said to be the father of English painting. An hon. Friend of his said, the other day—"We do not care for any more Vandykes, because we can see Vandykes in any English manor house."But, as his hon. Friend the Member for Cricklade (Mr. Story-Mas-kelyne) had said, it was not everybody who had access to manor houses. Beyond that, he (Mr. G. Howard) would say it was just because there were so many imitations of Vandyke in England that it was eminently desirable to have the masterpieces of that painter in their National Gallery. He remembered that people used to say—"If you want to know what Vandyke could paint you should go to Genoa." Again, it was not possible for everyone to go to Genoa, and even if it were they would not see such a picture as the Government proposed to purchase. The unrivalled excellence of these pictures was generally admitted; but it was thought that an extravagant price was being paid for them. Great as the price was, in his opinion, it was not at all an extravagant one; indeed, he had reason to believe that one of the greatest foreign authorities on painting had expressed the opinion that the Raphael would probably 203 sell at the present moment for £100,000. It was certainly a curious thing that many years ago, when one of the former Directors of the National Gallery entered into communication with the late Duke of Marlborough on the subject of the Raphael, that he expressed the opinion that, from what he had heard, he believed the value of the picture was £100,000. That was a good many years ago, when the value of pictures was not so high as it was at present. He (Mr. G. Howard) would not go into the Correspondence in detail, because the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cubitt) had dealt with it at sufficient length. He would just allude to one or two points in it. The right hon. Gentleman had said that Sir Frederick Burton was an extravagant valuer of pictures, and he founded the statement upon a list of prices which Sir Frederick had sent in to the Prime Minister. He (Mr. G. Howard) would point out, in the first place, that it was a very difficult thing—in fact, Sir Frederick himself said that it was almost an impossible thing—to price a picture of this character. Before an exact price could be fixed, it would be necessary for them to know more about the probable competitors, if the picture were put up to auction, than it was possible to know when the sale was a private one. Sir Frederick Burton had given what he believed to be the amount that the picture would fetch if exposed to general competition. A certain number of the pictures priced by Sir Frederick had since that time been sold. There was a list of nine pictures, which Sir Frederick Burton had valued at £83,000, and of these seven had been sold—he said seven, but, as a matter of fact, one—an inferior picture—was not on the list. However, six of that list had been sold, and the seven disposed of in the open market had fetched, not £83,000, but £98,350. That was the sum actually paid for them—a far larger figure than had been estimated by Sir Frederick Burton. It was a regrettable circumstance that these masterpieces had gone abroad. Perhaps it was inevitable, but, at all events, it proved that there were foreign competitors ready to give large sums, much larger than we ourselves were ready to give, for the pictures. It must not be forgotten that in some respects the present 204 moment was an unfortunate one for the Duke of Marlborough to have selected for the sale of his pictures. The Berlin Government had—he did not know whether last year or the year before, but at any rate quite recently—given something like£90,000 for a collection of manuscripts, one of which was a sketchbook of Botticelli, containing illustrations of Dante. Germany was a great country, but was supposed to be managed most economically, yet it did not consider £90,000 an extravagant sum for a sketch-book. We ought to be thankful to the German Government for the use they had made of the sketchbook, for they had published reproductions of the sketches; but if these pictures of the Duke of Marlborough had gone abroad, it would not have been possible for us to have obtained reproductions, and no idea of them could have been obtained by ourselves or future generations without going abroad to see them. It was unfortunate for the Duke of Marlborough that Germany had made a large investment, because, no doubt, it had crippled them in regard to other purchases, and had rendered them unable to compete for the purchase of the Blenheim pictures. It was not unreasonable to suppose, also, that there might have been some feeling on the part of purchasers that the English Government had a certain priority in the purchase of these pictures. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cubitt) had been good enough to take the National Gallery under his protection, and to say that they ought not to be cut off from their annual grant. He (Mr. G. Howard) hoped that attention would be paid to what the right hon. Gentleman had said in that respect. He should like to point out that, on the one hand, the right hon. Gentleman had represented the managers of the National Gallery as anxious at any price, totally disregarding economy, to obtain this grant of money for the purchase of the pictures; but that, on the other hand, he forgot that, in making that recommendation, the Trustees of the National Gallery had this fully before their eyes, and yet preferred to run the risk of losing the grant rather than lose what they believed to be a unique opportunity. He thought that their willingness to obtain the pictures at that sacrifice, however reluctant they might have been to lose their an- 205 nual grant, showed that their opinion had not been formed recklessly and impulsively, as had been suggested, but had been a deliberate one. The right hon. Gentleman had also detailed the measures which he thought would be useful for educational purposes in the way of the circulation of works of Art and in the management of their Galleries, in order to make works of Art more valuable to the public. For his own part, ho agreed with much that the right hon. Gentleman had said about what should be done for the purpose of education. Much had been done, and much more could still be done; but he thought that people were rather to undervalue the great educational effect of the best works of Art being available to the Art students. In that respect, he believed that the National Gallery stood very high. It was a remarkably complete historical Collection; but what was wanted, above all, as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had pointed out, was a few great masterpieces. Year by year the managers of the National Gallery had made their Collection of pictures more complete in an historical and educational sense; but, to perfect it, it had rather wanted some great masterpieces in order to have a full representation of what was absolutely the best in Art. Although opinions and fashions were fluctuating things, they did not at all fluctuate in regard to the highest names in Art; and he believed that, by becoming possessors of these pictures, the Government would be putting their National Collection in an absolutely unassailable position. The number of Art students at the National Gallery was increasing year by year, and this year rather more than 100 students were engaged in copying the pictures in the National Gallery over and above the number so engaged last year. Then there was one personal matter upon which he begged permission to say a few words. It had been suggested, because the Prime Minister's letter to him in regard to the Blenheim pictures began rather abruptly, that some communication had passed which the managers of the National Gallery did not wish to have published. Nothing could be a greater mistake. As the communications had been going on from day to day, and as the Trustees of the National 206 Gallery only met from time to time, he (Mr. G. Howard) had very naturally, as the only Trustee at that time in the House of Commons, communicated the information received to Members of the Government whom he had seen in the House. He believed that the Prime Minister's letter to himself was in answer to a letter from him (Mr. G. Howard), in which he had stated that he believed there was then a chance of purchasing the two pictures separately, the Duke of Marlborough having before that refused to treat for them except in one collection. It, however, appeared that the noble Duke had changed his mind, and he (Mr. G. Howard) communicated that fact to the Prime Minister, and this letter was the right hon. Gentleman's answer. There was nothing which could not have been fully published to the House in the matter. He had nothing more to say; and in conclusion he would merely observe that he felt absolutely convinced that if this opportunity had been lost they would not have had another of getting a picture or pictures of that class again.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, he did not suppose the Committee desired this debate to be prolonged; and he certainly had no wish to detain it for more than a few moments. He felt, however, that he must, for one, express his thanks to his right hon. Friend near him (Mr. Cubitt) for bringing this question before the Committee. It was quite reasonable and proper that such a question should be debated there; and he was sure the Government itself would not have desired a Vote of that kind to pass without comment. There were two or three things to be deprecated in connection with this purchase. In the first place the country, no doubt, through its great wealth, by its action in this matter, had tended to raise the value of pictures in the market. It had done this by giving a price higher than could be given by any private purchaser. It was evident that the price originally asked for these pictures was something exorbitant. It had been brought down by the firmness of the Prime Minister to a comparatively moderate amount, although lie thought it was still excessive—so that he could not help thinking that if the Treasury had been left alone a still smaller price would have been agreed upon. But the economical instincts of 207 the Treasury could not be trusted, and a deputation of distinguished persons had waited upon the Government in order to stimulate them to make the purchase, and they had besides a round-robin signed by Members in the Lobby of that House for the same object—a practice which he thought was to be more honoured in the breach than in the observance. The round-robin was intended to strengthen the hands of the Government; but who could doubt that when great pictures were in the market, the artistic world would be more inclined to stimulate than depreciate their value? Who could doubt that, under the circumstances, the prices would be enormously raised? He remembered that a considerable sensation was caused at the enormous amount of £23,000 being given by the French Government for Marshal Soult's Murillo. From that time to this no such sum had ever been given for a single picture. The value of the Duke of Marlborough's Raphael was not fixed by any consideration as to what it was worth, but in view simply of what the Treasury could be persuaded to give. That was a matter of precedent. So far as the intrinsic value of the picture was concerned, he could not, of course, pretend to offer an opinion; but he would say, with regard to the National Gallery, that probably no one frequented it more often than he did himself, or had taken a greater interest in it for a long period of time; and he must admit that pictures of this class were the one thing needed to make it complete. The Collection was an extremely interesting one, and an extremely valuable one, and he thought more valuable from not being too large. It was valuable to the English people because it had been built up, not by extravagant purchases at one time, but generally by purchases made from year to year out of an annual Vote. If the Committee were willing to pass the present Vote, he thought it ought not to be done at the cost of the annual grant of £10,000. It did not follow that because that sum was voted annually it was necessary always to spend it; but he considered that their National Collection of pictures, such as it was, owed its chief merit and distinctive character to purchases made in the market from time to time in the natural way. With regard to the Vandyke, the price at which it 208 was to be obtained was, he must own, a large sum to give for a picture, which, however fine, was not unique, there being many similar to it in the country. There was one in Burlington House—a portrait of Charles I. on horseback. There was one at Windsor and one at Highclere. In conclusion, he wished to express his obligations to his right hon. Friend for having drawn attention to this Vote, and to say that, if he went to a division, he should support him.
§ MR. MARJORIBANKS
said, he did not rise to say one word as to whether it was expedient or not for the nation to purchase these pictures; but as he was one of the Trustees for the Blenheim estate, and guardian of the Marquess of Blandford, he thought he might be permitted to say what his views were upon the subject. In 1883 a large sum was offered for 12 of the Blenheim pictures, and in 1884 application was made to the Court of Chancery, under Lord Cairns's Act, for permission to negotiate their sale. There was a reasonable expectation of obtaining a sum of certainly £400,000 for the 12 pictures. This application was granted by the Court of Chancery; but when, under the terms of the order, the Duke of Marlborough applied to the Court to sanction the sale of the Ansidei Raphael and the Vandyke portrait of Charles I to the Government for £70,000 and £17,500 respectively, he (Mr. Marjoribanks) and his co-Trustee thought it their duty to oppose the application to the utmost, on the ground of the entire inadequacy of the price offered by the Government. He wished to express his decided opinion that if the Duke of Marlborough had been more firm in the matter he might have obtained a much larger sum for the Baphael and Vandyke than he had agreed to accept. He (Mr. Marjoribanks) did not mean to say that the noble Duke would necessarily have obtained it from the Government. He believed—and he wished to express the opinion—that the country, in obtaining these two pictures at the price they were giving for them, were obtaining them at much below what would have been given for them elsewhere.
said, he would not trouble the Committee for any length of time; but he wished to express the satisfaction with which he had heard the eloquent vindication of the Vote which had fallen from the hon. Member for 209 Cricklade (Mr. Story-Maskelyne). He did not want to depreciate the bargain the Government had made, and was sorry that the Committee was to be divided on the subject. He trusted that the hon. Gentleman's remarks would have the effect of removing the impression that existed in some quarters amongst Gentlemen who were disposed to question the wisdom of this Vote. He did not regard this as a question as to whether one more picture or two should be added to their National Collection. That was a small matter, though he was not, of course, disposed to undervalue it. The study of such noble works as the Blenheim Raphael was distinctly elevating, no doubt; but he wished to regard this proposal in the light of that great educational movement which was going on in this country, and more particularly in connection with Art. Hon. Members would be able to carry their minds back 35 years, to the time of the Exhibition of 1851. That Exhibition convinced the people and Government of this country that we were very much behind not only in Art matters, but especially in those manufactures in which artistic treatment entered at all; and he believed that it was on account of the enlightenment that Exhibition gave them that the Government inaugurated, he might say, a new era in regard to Art in this country. They established the Schools of Art, under that distinguished man, Sir Henry Cole. These schools had become established in almost every important town in the country; and hon. Gentlemen knew as well as he did what were the wonderful results they had accomplished. The manufactures of this country, in which the element of solidity mainly entered, had always held their own, because of the peculiar advantages which they as a nation enjoyed; but in those manufactures in which Art treatment was required they were deficient, and behind their foreign competitors. It was therefore precisely in those branches of manufacture, in which Art treatment was essential, that this great revival of Art had brought their manufactures to a level with those of other countries. What had been the consequence of all this? Let Gentlemen look at their own houses. ["Order, order!"] He did not wish to transgress—he simply desired to show what was the influence of Art- 210 teaching on the country, and how necessary it was that high ideals should be placed before those who had to study Art in the country. But he would pass from that, and would say that if the country was to maintain its place in the competition with foreign nations, they must, as far as they could, place before their workers the highest Art ideals that could be obtained. This Raphael, which had been so much spoken of, was, he believed, although he had not seen it, a wonderful picture. Certainly the price to be given for it was enormous; but whether or not it was an extravagant one depended upon what it was possible to get the picture for. If someone else was prepared to give £70,000 for it, £70,000 was the price the British Government could purchase it for on preference. Considering, therefore, that this was a unique occasion, and considering the wonderful stimulus this kind of purchase gave to the study of Art in the country, and looking upon its effects on the manufactures of Great Britain, he thought the occasion was one of which they ought to avail themselves. If they did not avail themselves of it, it would pass irretrievably away. As their manufactures increased and flourished, so did their artizans by the millions flourish; and it was on their behalf more than on behalf of the wealthy, who could go to the Picture Galleries when they chose, and who had the advantage of having pictures in their own homes, that he heartily supported the Vote.
§ MR. AGNEW
confessed that it was with much surprise and regret he saw the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Surrey (Mr. Cubitt) placing himself in front of the opposition to this Vote. Many in the House must know that the right hon. Gentleman was a distinguished connoisseur in matters of Art, that he was in possession of artistic heirlooms, and that he was himself a collector of works of Art of no mean distinction. He did not, however, gather from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that he objected to the purchase of this picture under any circumstances, but rather—though not expressed in words, and judging from the tone of his remarks—that he objected to the price to be paid. It appeared to him (Mr. Agnew) that there were two points before the Committee—first, was the Go- 211 vernment justified in seeking to acquire these precious examples of Raphael and Vandyke? If so, was the price which the Government contracted to pay more than the value of the pictures? He believed that no Government, in any civilized country, would have done other than depart from its true and proper functions if it had permitted, without making an effort to acquire them, such works to be deported. He confessed that since he had had the honour of a seat in that House he had never given a vote with greater pleasure and satisfaction than the vote he should give in favour of this purchase. And why was that? It was because he believed that the country was getting more than value for its money. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth), in his remarks, had said—"Where is the person who has offered to give £70,000, or more than£70,000, for the Raphael, and why does he not come forward?" Well, he (Mr. Agnew) asked the House—this House of Commons, composed of English Gentlemen—whether there was a Member in it, or one of their countrymen out of it, who would have ventured to enter into negotiations with the Duke of Marlborough for the purchase of these pictures until it was certain that all negotiations between His Grace and the Government were at an end? In reference to what had been said about private individuals buying the pictures, he knew, as a matter of fact, that many persons were prepared to negotiate. He might tell the Committee without any breach, of confidence, that, on behalf of a distinguished American, the firm of which he was a member had been invited to enter into negotiations for the purchase of this Raphael; and he took no credit to himself for having, to use a vulgar commonplace, shown the "cold shoulder" to his American client. He believed the picture to be worth a larger sum than £70,000; and that if it were offered for sale in any auction room in Europe it would command a much larger price than the Government proposed to give for it. A great deal of stress had been laid upon the fact that 30 years ago, Soult's Murillo was sold for £24,000. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cubitt) was not correct in his facts when he said that the competition for that picture rested 212 between the French and Spanish Governments. That was not so. It was a fact that an English nobleman was one of the competitors for the picture, and the penultimate bidder for it. The right hon. Gentleman knew well enough that during the last 30 years the value of works of Art had quadrupled—nay, quintupled. Twenty-five or 30 years ago high-class pictures could be obtained with comparative ease; but what was the state of things now? Important cities like Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, established public Galleries, and others devoted annually large sums of money for the acquisition of pictures. They found in the Colonies Melbourne and Sydney National Galleries established, and they saw these Galleries in Boston, St. Louis, New York, and other places in the United States; and did hon. Members suppose for a moment that those who were interested in the formation of those Galleries were indifferent to the acquisition of pictures of the highest class? He repeated that the value of works of this class had more than quintupled within the last 25 years. There could be no comparison whatever between the two pictures in point of Art or educational value, there being a great gulf between the Art of Raphael and that of Murillo. He did not desire to detain the Committee a moment longer. He regretted very much, that the tone of the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cubitt) had been to disparage the Director of the National Gallery; and he would take this opportunity of expressing his opinion that the administration of the National Gallery had been an immense success. Of course, the Director and Trustees of that Institution had no greater claim to being immaculate than any other set of men, and there could be no doubt that they had made mistakes; but, at the same time, he did believe that there was no Department of the Government, and no public matters connected with the National interest, that had been better safeguarded than had the interests of the English people in the National Gallery. Sir Frederick Burton was a very distinguished man; and although he was not supposed to be what might be termed an appraiser—for it was not expected of the Director of the National Gallery that he should know to a hair the value of 213 any particular work of Art which the Trustees might desire to possess—he felt bound to say that the nation had every right to be satisfied with the administration of the National Gallery. He trusted, therefore, that the Committee generally, or, at least, a considerable number of hon. Members, would agree with him in saying that when the two pictures they were then discussing were placed in the National Gallery, in point of general excellence and distinctive character, there was no Gallery in any city in Europe that would be in a prouder position than their own. The Committee should understand that the Raphael was not a small picture. As a good many hon. Members had probably never seen it, he would tell them that it was not a picture that could be put under Mr. Speaker's Chair; but a large composition of a quality unsurpassed by anything in the Kingdom. Indeed, he had no hesitation in saying it was a more valuable picture, twice told, than any other picture in the United Kingdom, and that there was no picture in Europe by the great Master that was in the same state of perfection; while there was not one, with the single exception of that which an hon. Member below him had already referred to—the Ma-donnadi di San Sislo at Dresden—that could compare with it for a moment in point either of quality or value. He regretted very much that there should be any division of opinion on this Vote; but he had little doubt that the Committee would, by a substantial majority, give its assent to the Motion of the Government.
§ MR. COOPE
said, he was of opinion that that House and the country generally were under a deep debt of gratitude to the Government for having availed themselves of the unique and unexampled opportunity which had been offered them of securing for the nation the two most magnificent works of Art to which the Vote under discussion related. The Madonna was, he believed, one of the finest that had been produced by Raphael. At any rate, there was only one other work in the world by that great Master that could be compared with it; and with regard to the Vandyke, it was the finest equestrian painting that Master had ever painted. It was true that the National Gallery already possessed one of the finest por- 214 traits Vandyke had ever produced; but the picture it was proposed to purchase would prove a very valuable adjunct. In his opinion, the purchase of the Peel Collection was one on which the nation might congratulate itself; and when the country had obtained the addition of these two magnificent paintings it would possess a National Gallery of which it might well be proud. He had listened with considerable interest to the hon. Member opposite (Mr. G. Howard), who was one of the Trustees of the National Gallery, for any remarks from him on such a subject must necessarily receive great attention in that House. He might say that they were very much indebted to the management of the National Gallery on other accounts. They had lately arranged the pictures in that building in schools, and they had also placed servants in uniform in the rooms, so that the public could know them, and address to them any inquiries they might wish to make; whereas, before this was done, the visitors did not know who they were to put questions to when they desired information. He regretted that the Trustees of the National Gallery had not taken the same course as had been followed by the Trustees of the South Kensington Museum, as well as by the Trustees of the British Museum, but which he was glad to find was now being tentatively undertaken; and he trusted that when the National Gallery had acquired the two magnificent works for which the present Vote was asked they would constitute another inducement to the Trustees to offer the public every opportunity of viewing those great artistic creations which belonged to the nation, and which the people ought not to be debarred from seeing on all available occasions. If the Committee went to a division on this Vote, he had no doubt there would be a large majority in favour of the proposed acquisition. He regarded the proposal as one of those which the Prime Minister would, on reflection, regard as one of his last and best acts.
§ MR. MONTAGUE GUEST
desired to say a few words before the Committee went to a division on this Vote. He did not think that this was a time when the country should be asked to spend £70,000 on a picture, however much it might be worth the money. It was proposed to increase the Army by 16,000 215 men, and it was also intended to expend large sums on a considerable addition to the Navy. There was a war at present going on in the Soudan, and, perhaps, there might soon be another in Afghanistan; and he certainly did not think that this was a moment when the nation should be called upon to spend £83,000 on pictures. He had no doubt that the pictures it was proposed to purchase were works of very great value; but, at the same time, he could not overlook the fact that they had had those pictures in the country for a great many years, and, as far as he was aware, the public had not shown so much interest in them as should induce the Committee to spend so large a sum of money upon them. Besides, there was no reason to suppose they would otherwise leave the country. He was strongly opposed to this Vote. Moreover, there was another point that had struck him with regard to this matter, and which, he thought, would demonstrate most plainly the inadvisability of making the proposed expenditure. In this country they were occasionally subjected to fearful outrages by the use of dynamite; and if pictures of so costly a description were to be purchased, and put into the National Gallery, some ruffian might walk in and blow to nothing in a moment those valuable works. He would advise the Committee not to spend the money asked for, and, for his own part, he should oppose the Vote.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
regretted that the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken should have said what might be taken as furnishing hints to the enemies of this country to go and destroy a really inestimable piece of property, on which the nation was about to spend the large sum of £70,000. But, passing away from this point, he rose with a feeling of astonishment at its being possible for anyone to hold that hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House were going to such lengths as to oppose the present Vote. He hoped that hon. Members who thought so would find themselves greatly disappointed. His own reasons for supporting the Vote were that, according to the information he possessed, the picture for which it was proposed to give £70,000 was a work, not merely of the greatest Master that ever lived, but one belonging to a class of that Master's of which there were 216 no other examples that had not found their way into public Galleries. The natural consequence was that the picture was one that could not be expected to come into the market—he would not say, in 10 or in 100 years—but at any future period. In his opinion, it would even be good policy, were it not rendered impossible by what had happened of late years, to borrow the money to buy the pictures rather than refuse to pass the Vote. He hoped the Committee would not regard with any feeling of impatience the further development of this discussion, because for once it happened to be engaged in discussing a pleasant subject.
§ MR. MAGNIAC
said, an hon. Member had made use of an exceedingly curious argument in relation to this Vote; because he seemed to think that it was too much to spend £70,000 on a picture for the National Gallery in comparison with the sum that had to be expended on an iron-clad which would only last a few years. The fact was that the National Gallery had only cost £300,000 altogether, and ought to be regarded as worth much more than an iron-clad. For his own part, he could not conceive of a greater loss, in an artistic sense, than to allow the Raphael picture to go out of the country, which he believed would have been the case had not an agreement been come to with Her Majesty's Government that it should be purchased for the nation. In his opinion, the Government were entitled to great credit for the negotiation, which they had conducted with a boldness that he must confess had rather astonished him. He thought that, in not refusing to purchase the picture at a price which he believed others would have given for it, they were deserving of the greatest praise. He believed he knew what would have happened had they refrained from seizing the opportunity thus afforded. There would have been a perfect howl of indignation if the Government had taken such a course. This country had an Art future before it; but it had a great deal to learn. It was undoubtedly, at the present time, a good deal behind many parts of the Continent in this respect. It had, however, learnt much, and he hoped it would learn a great deal more. Whereas only 20 years ago they had to go abroad for artists and designers for their manu- 217 factories, they were now furnishing designers to foreign manufacturers. Were they to let their national glory stand still? For his part, he looked forward to the time when they would see this country on a level with the glories of Dresden and Paris, which, however, was not the case now. They had, unfortunately, lost a great opportunity of making additions to their National Collection that were now at St. Petersburg. Still they had made a great advance, and he had no hesitation in saying that the South Kensington Museum would, at the present time, fetch five times what it had already cost, and that if put up to auction its contents would realize 400 per cent on the amount that had been expended upon them. Referring to what had been said about iron-clads, he wished to point out that while £800,000 was not grudged for one of those vessels, which could last but for a few years, the £300,000 that had been spent on the National Gallery would last for all time. He hoped pains would be taken to show the country the great advantage it would derive from this Vote; and he felt confident that the Government would receive the support of the Committee in the division about to be taken.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he had listened to the discussion that had taken place on this Vote with a considerable amount of interest. He had heard hon. Members pronounce very decided opinions in regard to this £70,000 picture, as being one of very great value. For his part, he was very much disposed to doubt whether the picture was worth such a sum of money; and he would venture to suggest that the Vote should be withdrawn or postponed for the present, and that in the meantime the picture should be brought into the Tea Room for the inspection of hon. Members, and thus give them an opportunity of seeing for themselves what the picture was, and of saying whether or not they would agree with one or other of the two Parties in that House, who said, on the one side, that the picture was one of great value, and, on the other, that it was not at all worth the money. This course would give them the opportunity of seeing the article, and would enable them to judge of its merits for themselves. He might suggest, at the same time, that the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Agnew), who 218 had given so very decided an opinion in favour of the purchase of this highly-priced article, might also put alongside the picture a few other heirlooms, so as to give the House an opportunity of comparing them, and assist hon. Gentlemen in arriving at a satisfactory result. The House could, upon a subsequent day, vote for or against the confirmation of the purchase which had been made, as he understood, in a provisional way by the Government.
§ MR. WILLIS
said, he fully concurred with the right hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Cubitt) in the objection he had raised to this Vote—an objection which was all the stronger if that right hon. Gentleman possessed, as he (Mr. Willis) was told he did, a true taste in Art. He would state very shortly his objections to this Vote. In the first place, he objected to deal with a man for the purchase of a picture for the sum of £70,000, when that person had asked £160,000 for it at the beginning of the negotiation. Again, he objected to buy a picture for £70,000 in a case where his own agent had valued it at £110,000, especially when he was told that the £70,000 offered for it was not regarded by the person selling as a fair price. He should say, let those buy it who would give a fair price; and if it were true that there were Foreign Governments who were prepared to purchase the picture for the large price that had been named, let them have it. ["No, no!"] Hon. Members said "No, no;" but that, at any rate, was his opinion. Having had the advantage of visiting the Louvre, he could say to the French people, they might very well take away a great many of their worthless pictures and acquire this one for their Gallery, where it would aid the Art education of their people, who, perhaps, needed that education quite as much as, if not more than, the English people. He did not think there was any occasion to keep the picture to themselves. We had in the country a sufficient number of Raphael's productions, for the cultivation of taste and the knowledge of the great painter's work. The fact was that, in cases of this kind, the price fixed for a particular work of Art was reckoned according to the known wealth of the competitors, and not in accordance with the actual value of the work, and he ob- 219 jected to this country being called upon to pay prices like this, that were not estimated in regard to the inherent value of the works offered for sale, but rather in relation to the great wealth of this country. He objected on all these grounds to this Vote.
§ MR. HEALY
said, if it were necessary, he should move that the Committee approve of the purchase. He certainly intended to support the Vote; but, at the same time, he was of opinion that works of Art of such a character ought not to be confined to this country. The taxpayers of the Kingdom generally had to provide the money expended on these purchases; and he thought, therefore, that the people in Ireland, as well as those in Scotland, should occasionally have the opportunity of seeing them. He would give his support to the Vote on the distinct understanding that the opportunity of seeing the pictures was not to be simply confined to London, but that people elsewhere might also be able to see them.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND
said, he desired to explain very briefly why it was he intended to oppose this Vote. He thought it was simply a monstrous piece of absurdity to spend a sum of £83,000 in the purchase of two pictures which only a few privileged persons would ever have the pleasure of seeing. He could assure the Committee that there were very few people in Ireland—certainly among those in his own constituency, who, nevertheless, would have to contribute their portion of the cost—who would ever have the advantage of seeing these works of Art. No doubt the people in London would have that advantage; but the great majority of those who would have to pay for them would never have the opportunity of seeing them. But it was not on that ground alone that he wished to oppose the Vote. The hon. Member the Secretary to the Treasury would remember that he (Mr. Redmond) was one of a deputation who waited on him the other day for the purpose of asking the Government to give an additional grant of £40,000 or £50,000 for the completion of a harbour which was now in a very disgraceful condition on the South-East Coast of Wexford. As it was, for the want of a few thousand pounds to complete the harbour a great many lives were constantly being lost, and a large amount 220 of valuable property destroyed. As he had pointed out to the hon. Gentleman on the occasion referred to, there was no part of Ireland, and, perhaps, no part of the United Kingdom, where there existed a greater necessity for the construction of a good harbour of refuge than at the particular portion of the Wexford Coast to which he alluded—namely, Rosslare. ["Question!"] Hon. Members cried "Question;" but he was about to render his remarks â propos to the Question. The harbour for which the Government were only asked the miserable contribution of a few thousand pounds would not only greatly benefit the Irish people, but, if completed, as it ought to be, would prove of service to the British mercantile classes generally. Ships were constantly passing to and fro off this part of the Irish Coast. ["Question!"] The question was this—and he was going to put it very plainly—that he thought it a disgraceful procedure on the part of that Committee to vote largo sums of money like £83,000 for the purchase of pictures at a time when, as the Committee was well aware, the Government refused to give a few thousand pounds for the completion of a necessary work like the harbour to which he had referred. It appeared to him that the Government were very much in the position of Nero, who played his fiddle while Rome was burning. They were engaged in the very pleasant task of discussing the value of pictures and considering proposals to buy costly paintings at a moment when they were wasting the National treasure and pouring out the best blood of the country in a war against a considerable foe. He believed, however, that the Government were acting wisely, from one point of view, in spending vast sums of money in the purchase of pictures, because, when the news reached the Mahdi that they were thus engaged, what would the Mahdi say? He would probably say—"It is useless for me and my followers to maintain a contest with a nation which is so wealthy that it can, at the same time, equip armies and purchase pictures that are offered at enormous prices." If the English Government wished to impress the Mahdi with a strong sense of the vastness of their wealth, they had better go on buying pictures while they continued their fighting. But he did think 221 that, while the streets of London were filled with people who were starving and did not know where they were to obtain the means of sustenance, while the trade interests of this country were in a state of great depression, and hundreds and thousands of unemployed workmen and artizans were clamouring outside the Government Offices in the neighbourhood of Parliament Street for work, it was a disgraceful thing for the Government to be proposing the expenditure of vast sums of money on the purchase of pictures. It would be within the recollection of the Committee that, not many days ago, thousands of unemployed workmen, who wanted the means of support for their families, had met in London; and he imagined that when those thousands of men who had clamoured for work outside the Government Offices only a few days ago, and who were denied the employment they asked for, came to hear that, though they were refused the means of living, the Government could purchase costly pictures in which those persons had no interest, they would be very likely to go back to the Government Offices and raise a clamour which he hoped would be louder than before, accompanied by knocks at the door which he trusted would be still stronger and more emphatic. He should oppose this Vote, as he thought there were a hundred and one things in Ireland which needed the attention of the Government far more than the purchase of a couple of pictures at the enormous price of £83,000. As long as people were starving for want of employment, or being shipwrecked for lack of proper harbours in which they could find safety, he would, with all the power given to him, raise his voice against proposals such as this.
§ MR. CUBITT
said, he did not wish to put the Committee, at that late hour, to the trouble of a division, especially as he believed there was a tremendous majority of Members in favour of the Vote. He trusted, however, that the discussion in which they had been engaged would not be without its effect, and that, while the majority of the Committee would remain satisfied with the purchase of the pictures, those who had agreed with him and had supported him in the protest he had offered would be allowed to retain their conviction that that House preferred Art to economy.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 131; Noes 30: Majority 101.—(Div. List, No. 42.)
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (9.) £30, London University.
§ (10.) £9,703, Public Education, Scotland.
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again To-morrow.