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Title The Picture Gallery
Collection Towneley Hall Art Gallery and Museums, Burnley
Artist Alma-Tadema, Lawrence (Dutch and British painter, 1836-1912)
Date Earliest probably 1874
Date Latest probably 1874
Signed yes
Description Ernest Gambart (1814-1902), the most important Victorian print publisher and art dealer and patron of Alma-Tadema, encouraged the Dutch artist to come to England under his patronage. Gambart retired to Nice in 1871, where he was the Spanish Consul at the time that this work was commissioned. Alma-Tadema has depicted Gambart in the centre of this painting. The man leaning forward is his nephew and assistant, Charles Descamps, while the two men with their backs turned to the viewer may be F. J. Pilgeram and Léon Lefèvre, Gambart's business associates. The woman may be either Gambart's mistress, Madame Angelée, or Descamp's wife Christine. The scene is imaginary but details of architecture, costume and furnishings were all studied from photographs or the artist's own sketches of museum objects and existing buildings. This painting, and its pendant The Sculpture Gallery (Glasgow Museums) remained at Les Palmiers, Gambart's marble palace in Nice, until his death in 1902. They both utilise the theme of ancient Roman connoisseurship to introduce a wide variety of artefacts and works of classical art. Both were exhibited at the Royal Academy in London and the Paris Salon, confirming the artist's international fame. There are at least two variants of this picture, of which one was engraved.
Current Accession Number PA/OIL 58
Inscription front ul 'Alma Tadema OP.CXXVI'
Subject interior (picture gallery); figure (male and female in classical dress); portrait (Gambart, Ernest; Descamps, Charles; Pilgeram, F. J. [?]; Lefèvre, Léon [?]; Madame Angelée or Descamp, Christine [?] )
Measurements 218 x 167 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Purchased with funds from Caleb Thornber J.P. Bequest 1925.
Provenance Ernest Gambart sale, Christie's, 2 May 1903, lot 123, bought by Arthur Tooth & Sons, London; bought by John Levey; Christie's, 28 June 1912, lot 119, bought by Charles Brunner, Paris; Vickers brothers; Richard Howarth, Blackburn.
Principal Exhibitions Royal Academy, London, 1874, cat. no. 157; Paris Salon, 1875, cat. no. 13; Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1883, cat. no. 76; Manchester Royal Jubilee Exhibition, 1887, cat. no. 311; Royal Scottish Academy, 1913, cat. no. 76; Winter exhibition, Royal Academy, London, 1913, cat. no. 165; Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1997.
Publications Zimmerman, H., 'Alma-Tadema, RA', Art Annual, 1888, p.18; Standing, P. C., Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, O.M., RA, 1905, p. 56; Maas, J., Gambart: Prince of the Victorian Art World, 1975, pp. 241-243, repr., opp. p. 234; Swanson, Vern G., Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1977, London, pl. 7.
Notes The inscription is painted on the picture rail. Label on back of stretcher 'James Bourlet & Sons Ltd., Fine Art Packers and Frame Makers. 68303 [...] Phone Museum 1871'; stamp on stretcher 'Windsor & Newton'; label: 'No.1 The Picture Gallery, L. Alma-Tadema. Townsend House, North Gate, Regents Park, N.W.'.; label 'Royal Jubilee Exhibition, Manchester, 1887. Artist: L. Alma Tadema RA. Title: The Painters Studio. Owners Name: Mons. E. Gambart. Address: Les Palmiers(;), Nice, France'; sale number in red chalk 'Lot 161 C62 1874'. Notes taken from Read, B., 'Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema' Apollo, June 1997; 'Alma Tadema was born and grew up in Friesland, an area of Holland with its own strongly independent culture and language. In 1852 he went to Antwerp, and studied at the Academy where his two early influences were the painter Henri Leys and the painter-archaeologist Louis de Taeye. Both specialised in historical scenes of incidents or anecdote; the former was famous for his late medieval scenes, the latter had a formidable knowledge of Antique history. But a visit to Pompeii in 1863 was the true defining moment for Alma-Tadema's art. From then on he painted reconstructions from Roman life that became his hallmark. He avidly collected photographs of classical buildings and artefacts which were arranged by type so that he could find immediately what he needed for his images.' In 1862 he won a gold medal at Amsterdam. In 1865 he settled in Brussels, and five years later in London. In 1879 he was elected to the R.A. and was knighted in 1899, receiving the British Order of Merit in 1903.
Rights Owner Burnley Borough Council, Towneley Hall
Author Lisa Howard



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