Summary

View of the Fine Art Gallery display in the Italian Court, on the southern wall of the eastern nave in the Great Hall at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition held at the Exhibition Buildings, Carlton Gardens, between 1 October 1880 and 30 April 1881.

The picture galleries of the various countries were situated on the first floor balconies of the main Exhibition Building. The Italian Court occupied the south-eastern balcony area, sharing the space with the French galleries on the same level, and comprised about 250 works, the majority of them being oil paintings by living artists. The reputation of the Italian Court as one of the 'leading attractions' had already been established the previous year at the 1879 Sydney International Exhibition, where the displays of decorative marble and bronze statuary were highly regarded.

The large painting of 1880 by Polish-born artist Henryk Siemiradzki (1843-1902) of the 'Pirate's Cavern', prominently displayed on the wall in this image, was regarded by the Argus critic reviewing the Italian picture galleries as the 'most ambitious, and, in some respects, one of the best pictures in the Italian gallery. ...The vigour of the drawing, the modelling of the principal figures, and much of the colour are exceedingly good.'

However, the review of the painting was not without criticism, for the critic argued that 'the effect of the double illumination from the front and back of the cavern is unpleasnt to the eye, and the figures upon the first, second, and third planes appear to be all of the same size.' The work, now titled, 'Corsairs', is held in the collections of Kharkov Art Museum, in Kharkov, Russia.

This is one of sixty-one photographs in a presentation photograph album titled '1880 Melbourne International Exhibition' presented to Thomas B. Hill. Hill was the Assistant Secretary of the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. This leather bound album was given to Hill, and all the Exhibition Commissioners, by the Exhibition Trustees. The photographer is believed to be Ludovico Hart, acting on a private commission from the Exhibition Trustees.

Description of Content

International Exhibition at Exhibition Building, Melbourne, 1880: interior view showing the Fine Art gallery in the Italian court.

Physical Description

Monochrome, gold-toned, silver gelatin photograph in a black leather bound album with decorative gold tooled border and gold tooled lettering in centre of front cover. Inside, 61 monochrome photographic plates showing exterior and interior views of the 1880 International Exhibition, held at the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne. Each photograph is mounted on heavy buff coloured card and has a simple black line border with a title beneath the photograph.

Significance

The Royal Exhibition Building has played an important role in Melbourne's social commercial and sporting life since it was built for the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880. The building's size and scale provide us with a physical example of 'boom-time' Melbourne in 1880. The international exhibitions of the late 1800s provided the fledgling Australian colonies with a forum in which to showcase their progress in commerce and industry to the world. This album is significant for its detailed visual record of the first international exhibition held in Melbourne. It has clear views of the colonial & international courts, as well as specific prominent exhibits. It also provides a contemporary view of the Exhibition Building interior and exterior in the year it was constructed.

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