Monday, 31 October 2011

A Roscoe Tour of Liverpool, Part 2

Sorry for the delay in posting, I'm only just back on the boards after a few weeks.

 However, to continue our tour, we need to head back to Lime St............................................
St George's Hall, Liverpool
Opposite Lime St Station is St George's Hall, a world-famous Neoclassical building, designed by H. L. Elmes in 1839 and opened in 1854. The astonishing interior, largely designed by Sir Charles Cockerell, includes statues of the great and the good, including William Roscoe.

The statue was commissioned by Liverpool Royal Institution in 1835. The sculptor was Sir Francis Chantrey, who receieveda fee of £1,500. Chantrey had already supplied the statue of the late George Canning, former MP for Liverpool, which stood in Liverpool Town Hall, and he followed the same classical style for his new commission. His sculpture of a seated, toga-clad Roscoe, with a folio volume to hand, was exhibited in 1840 at the Royal Academy, in London, before being delivered to Liverpool in 1841. Unfortunately, as the large and immensely heavy marble figure was being hoisted into position, it slipped its chains, fell to the floor and broke into pieces. Chantrey had to be called in to supervise the repairs!
Across the road from St George's Hall is the Walker Art Gallery,  one of seven institutions which make up the National Museums Liverpool group. Opened in 1877, the Walker houses one of the largest art collections in England.  

Walker Art Gallery (Photo from About Liverpool)

Walker Art Gallery interior (Photo from Flickr)
At the bottom of the main staircase is the portrait of William Roscoe by Sir Martin Archer Shee, painted between 1815-1817 (and used for the pub sign we looked at earlier).
William Roscoe, by Sir Martin Archer Shee (Walker Art Gallery)

The portrait shows Roscoe in the library at Holkham Hall, Norfolk, the country seat of his friend and patron, Thomas William Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester (1754 –1842), known as Coke of Norfolk, who was also MP for Derby. Roscoe catalogued the manuscripts and books in Coke's library in the 1810s, a project which was expected to be an occupation for Roscoe's 'leisure hours' but which was not completed until the 1820s. The portrait hung originally at the entrance to the  library. Roscoe the scholar is surrounded by books and manuscripts. On the table stands a bust of Charles James Fox, one of Roscoe's great heroes; in front of the bust are  volumes of Roscoe’s The Life and Pontificate of Leo X. 

Upstairs in the Walker are paintings from  the Roscoe Collection. William's paintings, books and other eprsonal effects were auctioned  in 1816 when Roscoe's bank collapsed. Many paintings went to Liverpool Royal Institution, and later from there to the Walker. The scale of Roscoe’s collecting, though modest compared to some, was nevertheless considerable. Although not all his art works were as he described them in his catalogues, with some being attributed either to the wrong artist or to the wrong workshop, he nevertheless had many very desirable items on show in his country house, Allerton Hall. 

Among Roscoe's art works which came to the Walker are  some forty-five ‘Early Masters’, including this gem (below), Christ discovered in the temple, painted by Petrarch’s contemporary and friend, Simone Martini, dated to 1342 in Avignon when the papal court was in exile (and bought by Roscoe for 5 guineas in 1804).

Christ discovered in the temple, Simone Martini, 1342. (Walker Art Gallery)

Another beautiful 'Early Master' is this painting

The birth of the Virgin, Pietro Vanucci, called  Perugino,, c. 1450 – 1523. (Walker Art Gallery).

The birth of the Virgin , by Pietro Vanucci, called Perugino. It was brought to England in 1786 from the chapel of the Pucci family, supporters of the Medici and major patrons in Renaissance Florence. Roscoe purchased it at the same sale in 1804 for 9 guineas (when it was known as The birth of John the Baptist and ascribed to Masaccio).

And the painting which is considered one of the finest in the Roscoe collection,

Pietà, by Ercole de’ Roberti, c. 1495 (Walker Art Gallery)
this starkly beautiful Pietà, by Ercole de’ Roberti, (c. 1450 -1496) dated c. 1495, which was part of a large altarpiece that is still in the church of San Giovanni in Monte, Bologna. 

Walker cafe (Walker Art Gallery)

There's tea and food too, at the Walker Cafe. 

That's the tour, as far as public institutions go in the the moment

The Central Library, and the Liverpool Records Office, both hold items of interest, including the Roscoe Papers, which include several thousand letters to and from the Roscoes. However both are undergoing refurbishment and won't be open for a while. Up-to-date information, and web access to documents etc. may be found by clicking this link.

William Roscoe's activities as a botanist have to be hunted down across the city. Copies of Roscoe's beautifully illustrated Monandrian Plants may be seen in the Library's collection.
  Illustration from William Roscoe, Monandrian Plants 1828-

The Liverpool Botanical Collection, from the Liverpool Botanic Gardens founded by Roscoe and others in the 1790s, is now dispersed. A leaflet on its history, by botanist and former Head of Science, National Museums Liverpool, Dr John Edmondson, can be downloaded

Sefton Palm House, Sefton Park

Items from the Botanical Collection are on show in Sefton Palm House
Croxteth Hall and Country Park

 and Croxteth Country Park walled garden, the rest being kept under wraps in Garston. 

The other building associated with Roscoe is The Athenaeum, a private club situated on Church Alley, just down from Lime St. 

The Athenaeum, Liverpool

Roscoe and his friends helped to establish  the club in the 1790s. The library holds manuscripts and other memorabilia associated with Roscoe and his circle.

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