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The National Gallery

Volume 87: debated on Friday 17 July 1846

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On the Question that 3,390 l. be granted for the National Gallery,

objected to an item of 630l., being the price of a portrait purchased for the National Gallery as a production of Hans Holbein. No man who knew anything of art would say that it was. The purchase had been made under an erroneous impression, though the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir R. Peel) was understood to have had a part in the matter.

observed, that in this case a deception had no doubt been successfully practised. Hopes were entertained that the sum might be recovered from the vendor; but it was found impracticable to resist the claim.

wished to know if there had been a recommendation in writing to purchase the picture. If not, he trusted this would be a warning in future that no such purchase should take place without a written recommendation.

stated, that for many years he had been one of the trustees of the National Gallery. It was very easy for the hon. Member for Evesham (Mr. Borthwick), in the absence of the right hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir R. Peel), to speak contemptuously, and it was very safe. It was necessary to tell the hon. Member for Evesham that the right hon. Member for Tamworth, though a trustee, had, for the last four or five years, had other avocations, which materially interfered with his attendance. The trustees were in this instance deceived. They employed people in whom they could confide; and the party consulted in the present case had never before been known to be wrong. He was now dead. In this case, beyond all doubt, his judgment was wrong; but, though the picture was not one of Holbein's, it was not generally admitted to be a bad picture. The hon. Member for Newark knew something of the reasons which prevented the trustees from seeking redress. Though not judges of pictures, they were judges of the expense of litigation; and they thought it better to advise Parliament to pay the price rather than seek redress with a clear case in a court of law.

explained. He was called upon to give his assent to a vote of 630l. for a picture which he would venture to say no one could now be got to give 30l. for. He thought he had a right, therefore, to comment on the praise which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had given to the work.

begged to remark, that in consequence of the mistake which had been committed on the occasion alluded to, a regulation had been made, by which there would be placed on record the opinions of accomplished and competent judges on any work of art proposed to be added to the National Gallery before any future purchase was made.

Vote agreed to.