History Website for Dibdin, Aglio, Rowntree, Guise, and other Families
History   Homepage Picture Gallery Photo Gallery Museum Articles Sitemap
Aglio Homepage


Article based on the letters to the Aglios

Return to Aglio Museum

Database of letters to the Aglios

Aglio and Others Residing in London

The Buckingham Palace Summerhouse Story
as drawn from letters and other sources

From Chambers Edinburgh Journal

From The Athenaeum

Link to dissertation about Ludwig Gruner, Art Adviser to Prince Albert
by Daniel Boeckmann
This dissertation is submitted for the degree of
Master of Arts
School of World Art Studies and Museology
University of East Anglia Norwich Norfolk
    12 September 1996

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  dissertation   about 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 June:

 "In 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".


"Maclise has 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 of Fresco". 

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 Exhibition Building.

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.

Taken from:
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 two rooms.

 Mrs. 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.

Daniel Boeckmann's 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.