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Painting Title Ruins of Holyrood Chapel
Collection Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
Artist Daguerre, Louis-Jacques-Mandé (French inventor, scenographer, and daguerreotypist, 1781-1851)
Date Earliest probably about 1824
Date Latest probably about 1824
Description Daguerre is remembered for the photographic process which he invented in 1837 and which is named after him, but he first achieved fame with the Diorama, a popular place of entertainment which he established in Paris in 1822. In this purpose-designed building, vast paintings on transparent linen were displayed, depicting imposing architectural interiors and panoramic landscapes. The scenes could be dramatically transformed by artificial lighting, and they were accompanied by sound effects and by live figures and props. One of Daguerre's most successful presentations showed the moonlit ruins of Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh. After being shown in Paris, it travelled to London and other cities, including Liverpool. Daguerre sometimes went on to exhibit easel paintings of his Diorama subjects, of which this is an example.
Current Accession Number WAG 3034
Subject place (Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh); buildings and gardens
Measurements 211.0 x 256.5 cm
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Given by Arnold Baruchson 1864
Provenance Described in 1864 as purchased "recently" on the continent by Arnold Baruchson.
Principal Exhibitions Constable to Delacroix: British Art and the French Romantics, Tate, London, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2003, cat. no. 42.
Publications Gernsheim, H. and A., L. J. M. Daguerre, London, 1956; Compton, M., Walker Art Gallery: Foreign Schools Catalogue (Text), Liverpool, 1963, p. 53; Walker Art Gallery: Foreign Schools Catalogue (Plates), Liverpool, 1966, p. 150; French Painting 1774-1830: The Age of Revolution, Paris, Detroit and New York, 1974, p. 355; Morris, E., and Hopkinson, M., Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool: Foreign Catalogue, 2 vols, Liverpool, 1977, p. 50 (Text), p. 57 (Plates); Rosslyn, H., and Maggi, A., Rosslyn: Country of Painter and Poet, Edinburgh, 2002, pp. 29-30, p. 32; Noon, P., Constable to Delacroix: British Art and the French Romantics, Tate, London, 2003, p. 102; Morris, E., French Art in Nineteenth-Century Britain, New Haven, 2005, p. 190.
Notes

Morris and Hopkinson (1977) note that Daguerre exhibited dioramas of this subject at Paris from 20 October 1823 until 21 February 1824, in London from March 1825, and in Liverpool in 1825-7. Daguerre also exhibited a painting of the Abbey ruins at the 1824 Paris Salon, cat. no. 400, which was described by one reviewer as a copy of the earlier diorama (Jal, A., in L'Artiste et le Philosophe, Entretiens Critiques sur le Salon de 1824, 1824, reprinted in Holt, E. G., The Triumph of Art for the Public,, Garden City, 1979, pp. 255-256). WAG 3034 does not appear to have been the painting shown at the Salon, which according to a contemporary description included the figure of the "comtesse de L***", visiting the tomb of her former friend, the duchesse de Grammont, who died in exile at Holyrood in 1803 and was buried in the royal vault in the south-east corner of the chapel (Explication des Ouvrages etc. Exposés au Musée Royal des Arts, 1824, p. 47, no. 400).

A print published in 1819 shows the tracery of the chapel's east window complete (Mackie, C., Historical Description of the Monastery and Chapel Royal of Holyroodhouse with an Account of the Palace and Environs, Edinburgh, 1819, pl. 4, following p. 82). A guide to the London showing of Daguerre's Holyrood diorama says that he deliberately showed the tracery incomplete "to give a more picturesque effect" (Diorama, Regents Park, Two Views, Ruins of Holyrood Chapel, a Moonlight Scene Painted by M. Daguerre, etc., 1825, p. 4).

Daguerre painted other Scottish views - Personnages Visitant une Ruine Médiévale, 1826 (Gérard Lévy collection, Paris), and Esquisse de l'Intérieur de l'Abbaye de Roslyn 1824 (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen, no. 2004.3.1). He is not known to have visited Scotland, although it has been suggested (Rosslyn and Maggi, 2002) that details of the Rosslyn painting may indicate first-hand knowledge of the site.

The donor of WAG 3034, Arnold de Beer Baruchson (1807-1876), was born in the Netherlands and became a successful merchant in Liverpool (Orchard, B. G, A Liverpool Exchange Portrait Gallery, first series, Liverpool, 1884, pp. 20-22). He made his fortune by importing sugar beet, before eventually retiring to London. In Liverpool he was Chairman of the Society of Fine Arts. According to Morris (2005), he specialised in collecting contemporary French, German and Belgian art, rather than British.

Another painting by Daguerre of figures in a shadowy medieval interior, smaller in scale than WAG 3034, was sold at Sotheby's, London, 13 May 1994, lot 11.

Rights Owner National Museums Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery
Author Joseph Sharples
 

 

 

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