Tuesday, 18 February 2020

The Lady Lever Art Gallery Revisited

Napoleon I by René Théodore Berthon, 1809

I recently returned to the Lady Lever Art Gallery. This was my first visit since the Napoleon room was moved and reconfigured.

I was very taken with the Berthon picture, painted from nature according to the inscription on the surround. It is much easier to see than previously. It is now hung between portraits of Wellington and Nelson, which previously were hung either side of the famous William Quiller Orchardson painting of Napoleon dictating to Count Las Cases on St Helena in 2016.

Portraits of Wellington, Napoleon and Nelson, the Napoleon Room, Lady Lever Art Gallery

All these paintings were transferred from Lord Lever's private collection in 1922, but it is slightly odd to see Wellington and Nelson in a room named after Napoleon!

Lord Lever's Collection of Miniatures of Napoleon and his family - now missing

No longer on display is Lord Lever's collection of miniatures which I photographed on my visit in 2011. Some time ago I seem to remember having a communication from Liverpool Art Galleries telling me that when they reassembled the room they could not find it. My photo may be the only record of it in existence. I fear the worst.

Still there but not in the Napoleon room, is Oliver Cromwell.

Bust of Oliver Cromwell

The museum's notes now recognise that images of Cromwell were displayed as a political statement by many Whigs. This tradition was maintained by Lord Lever and a number of Liberals in the C19, notably in Manchester Town Hall, the very heart of nineteenth century Liberalism.

I have lost count of the number of times I have been to the Lady Lever Gallery. I never tire of it, always finding something I have missed on previous visits, and I always marvel at the beautiful village that Lord Lever created for his employees at Port Sunlight over a century ago. He was truly a remarkable man.