Material for a history of conservation: the 1850 and 1853 reports on the National Gallery

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Brommelle, N.S.;


Studies in conservation, Volume 2, Number 4, p.176-188 (1956)


bronze, conservation, England, England (London), Europe, forgeries, history, UK


Two Select Committees, appointed by the House of Commons, met, one in 1850, the other in 1853, to enquire into the management of the National Gallery, London. At the time the filthy state of both gallery and pictures had given rise to public concern, and the few pictures which were cleaned did not meet with general approval. The two committees heard evidence from Gallery officials, artists, restorers and other specialists, all of whom were ruthlessly cross-questioned. The published verbatim reports of the two committees covers over 1100 pages and ranges over the whole field of administration, conservation and restoration. From this mass of information the author has extracted that which is most relevant to conservation and restoration, and gives a vivid picture of conditions and practice of the time. Subjects covered include: atmospheric pollution, techniques of cleaning, restoration, re-lining and transfer, varnishing (including the use of the notorious "Gallery Varnish", which was used in an attempt to prevent the bloom caused by atmospheric pollution), opinions of scientists of the time, and training and remuneration of restorers.