From Chambers Edinburgh Journal
From The Athenaeum
to dissertation about
Ludwig Gruner, Art Adviser to Prince Albert
by Daniel Boeckmann
This dissertation is submitted for the degree of Master
School of World Art Studies and Museology
University of East Anglia Norwich Norfolk 12
From a study of the letters
to the Aglios it becomes apparent that in 1841 Agostino became involved
with a number of artists in fresco work relating to Buckingham Palace.
The names that cropped up at the bottom of letters included:
C.L. Eastlake, E. H.Landseer, Mr Stanfield, Daniel Maclise, C.R.
Leslie and W.C. Ross, G.R.Ward
It seems that Eastlake was a
significant figure within the Art Establishment and so was acting as an
organiser but Aglio had a key role to play as he was the expert in Fresco work
and some of the others had no experience in the field.
There was an awareness that Aglio had
been responsible for work at Buckingham Palace particularly in the context of
Encaustic work in the Pompeii Room of the "Pavilion" and with a little
research it became apparent that this was part on the new Summer House built in
the grounds of the Palace during the 1840's.
|The plans show three main
rooms, the Octagon, the Pompeii Room and the Scott Room. Study of the
lives of Queen Victoria
and Prince Albert would explain their thinking behind the rooms.
Fortunately further searching on the internet revealed a fantastic
Ludwig Gruner, Art Adviser to Prince Albert produced by
by Daniel Boeckmann in 1996.
This work gives a detailed account of
the origination of the Summerhouse and the Artists involved including references
to Agostino Aglio and his role in the whole project.
Quoting from the dissertation
it seems that at first eight artists were invited to paint frescos on the 8
walls of the Octagon Room. These artists were:
Charles Eastlake, William Etty, Edwin Landseer, Clarkson Stanfield, Daniel
Maclise, Thomas Uwins, Charles Leslie and Sir William Ross.
Charles Eastlake, the
secretary of the Royal Commission, obviously directed the fresco-painting in the
cottage, as Gilchrist recorded: "After applying to Mr Eastlake for
particular instructions Mr Etty made sketches of two or three compositions from
Comus, the play by Milton
The frescoes in the garden pavilion
were begun in June 1843.
Queen Victoria, very much involved in
the development of the garden-pavilion decoration, wrote in her diary on 13
spite of pouring rain we went up to the cottage and watched the
preparations for the painting of the frescoes. An old Italian, Mr
d'Aglio, who understands about it, was there. We saw Ross make the first
touches. ,..After our breakfast" the Queen reported two days later,
"we walked out and visited the cottage, where Ross is getting on
very well, alas he is so disheartened about it all. The sketch he made,
is extremely pretty, with the subject being Comus. There are eight
compartments of this shape ( drawing of a lunette). The other artists
are to be: Eastlake, Landseer, Stanfield, Maclise, Etty & Leslie.
The process of fresco painting is very curious. The stucco has to be cut
off at the edges, where the painting has been done and must ... on fresh
each day. Albert enjoyed watching the whole proceedings so much".
made a most exquisite sketch for his fresco; The subject is Sabrina
riding with the nymphs. The grouping of them round her and the figure of
Sabrina herseif are quite charming".On 8 July, Maclise was still at
work at the cottage and "Uwins has nearly finished his
fresco". Although there was an Italian artist who should advise the
English painters, the new technique seems not to to have been mastered
by all participants: The Queen's remark in her diary "Maclise's
fresco will be quite beautiful, Etty's still too sketchy" announced
the difficulties Etty was faced with: He "reluctantly commenced the
Fresco 'not expecting to succeed, being unacquainted with the practice
Prince Albert decided in November 1843 on
"alterations to the cottage", and in December he discussed
"necessary alterations with Mr Blore". Initially the intention had
been to decorate only the Octagon Room. Alterations had to be made because
Albert decided to have the two side-rooms decorated as well.
On 29 December 1843 Queen Victoria notes
"We visited our
cottage, where Aglio is painting the ceiling in encaustic".In the
same year, L.Rottmann applied the encausto-technique in Munich in a
series of landscape-paintings showing classical views to adorn the new
But Etty "being unwilling to execute the
Fresco on the wall", "the Prince was obliged to employ somebody eise".
In July, William Dyce, who had a practical knowledge of fresco-painting was
ordered to execute a Substitute for Etty's fresco.The payment to Etty, 40
Pounds, was harshly criticized.
In February 1844, the German engraver
Ludwig Gruner - was commissioned by Prince Albert to deliver designs for the
decoration of the Octagon walls.
At that time, all the frescoes with the exception of Landseer's, had been
cornpleted and then ceiling of one of the side-rooms had been painted by the
Italian Agostino Aglio "with large, heavy and colourful arabesques".
For the Scott Room he commissioned the
architectural modellers Bemasconi and Riddell to present models for the plaster
works.The Prince was present when Landseer brought his fresco on 7 July to the
pavilion and on 30 August Gruner arranged with the Italian painter Aglio, that
he should paint one of the side-rooms in Pompeian style in encaustic and that
his payment should be 100 Pounds.
The Decorations of The Garden Pavilion in the Grounds of Buckingham Palace
Engraved under the Superintendence of L.Grüner.
|The room on the right is decorated in the Pompeian
style; all the Ornaments, friezes, and panels being suggested by, or
actually copied from, existing remains, except the covered ceiling,
which, is invented by A. AGLIO. This room may be considered as a very
perfect and genuine example of classical domestic decoration, such as we
find in the buildings of Pompei,- a style totally distinct from that of
the Baths of Titus, which suggested to Raphael and his school, the rich
arabesques and Ornaments in painting, and in relief, which prevailed in
the sixteenth Century, and which have been chiefly followed in the other
Jameson, who wrote the introduction to Gruners book called:
"the interrnixture of the
Ornaments and medallions in relief. .. an idea borrowed frorn the best
era of Italian decoration" which "was first adopted by Raphael
... and suggested by the Ornaments in the Bath of Titus" and
claimed "all the Ornaments friezes and panels" in one of the
two side rooms, decorated in the Pompeian style as "being suggested
by, or actually copied frorn, existing remains, except the covered
ceiling which [ was ] invented by A. Aglio". As Mrs. Jameson
mentioned Gruner only in connection with the landscapes painted in the
(romantic) Scott Room "frorn original sketches by Gruner", it
is not surprising that Gruner's share in the decoration should have
remained unclear, although he himself wrote on the second page of the
volume that he "was honoured by the gracious commands of Her
Majesty and His Royal Highness Prince Albert to present designs for the
completion and decoration of the three rooms of which the Summer house
consists" that he "was also directed to procure the execution
of these designs by the different artists whose names appear in the list
printed at the end of Mrs. Jameson's introduction...".
The Defeat of Comus By Sir
Edwin Henry Landseer
Even from this short introduction it can be seen that Agostino
was very much involved for a few years with the Summerhouse Project although it
seems that other artist are given the credit for the original ideas and sketches
and he is treated as the skilled artisan.
Within the dissertation written by Daniel Boeckmann
one can pick up some idea of the relationships between the artists involved in
the project and become aware of the various frustrations that must have
developed with eight independent artists on the job.
dissertation is definitely worth reading as it give real insights into
the activities of the time.
It is interesting to
note that life nowadays is similar with artists invited to paint murals for Her
Majesty the Queen.