This photo from the 1890s gives a fairly clear view of elaborate balustrade around the mezzanine level of the Long Gallery. The image to the right is an artist’s impression of the opening of the Paris exhibition at the Museum in 1855. It also shows the balustrade, but not very clearly.
In August this year that balustrade was brought to my attention when the Archive received a query about Archibald Murray from his great grandson. He wanted to know whether his great grandfather had carved balustrades and a pilaster for the Long Gallery back in the 1850s, and if so, would he be able to see them.
There are no carvings in the Long Gallery now, so I started searching. After a diappointing trawl through the early correspondence, and through the plans of the Long Gallery, I decided to check the Trust Minutes.
It seemed pretty unlikely that wood carvings would rate a mention in the Minutes from the early Museum Trust meetings, but there was the information I’d been looking for:
July 1st, 1854: ‘That a special meeting be called on Saturday July 8th at eleven o’clock to confer with the Colonial Architect on the subject of the carved ornamentation of the Balustrades.’
July 5th, 1854: ‘..that the pilasters of the gallery be ornamented with wood carving..’
Oct 7th, 1854: Amongst the cheques paid out between meetings was one dated Sept 18th, made out to ‘Murray (carvings)’ for the sum of £20
Also on Oct 7th, 1854: Amongst the cheques paid from the meeting was one made out to ‘Murray (carvings)’ for the sum of £20
Nov 4th, 1854: Amongst the cheques paid out from the meeting was one made out to ‘Mr. Murray Balance due for Carvings’ for the sum of £20
The original carved panels were probably removed when the Mineral Gallery was refurbished in the 1980s. The images show the carved panels on the balustrade fairly clearly but I can’t find any images at all of a carved pilaster. Examples of Archibald Murray’s carvings can be seen on the pulpit of St Marks Church, Darling Point, and these newspaper articles give details of some of his other carvings.
"SCHOOL OF ARTS." Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1875) 12 Nov 1856: 4. Web. 11 Nov 2014 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64979604.
"SYDNEY." The Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 - 1859) 5 Mar 1858: 2. Web. 11 Nov 2014 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2461954.
"FINE ARTS." The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) 10 Oct 1857: 6. Web. 11 Nov 2014 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13001449.
"THE EXHIBITION:." Empire (Sydney, NSW : 1850 - 1875) 17 Oct 1861: 8. Web. 11 Nov 2014 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60484839. [contributions to the Great Exhibition in London]
"THE NEW SOUTH WALES BRANCH OF THE PARIS EXHIBITION." The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) 5 Dec 1854: 5. Web. 11 Nov 2014 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12963092.