- Museum number
The Temporary Elgin Room in 1819 with portraits of staff, a trustee and visitors.
Oil painting on canvas
- Production date
Height: 94 centimetres
Width: 132.70 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- This painting shows an idealised view of the Temporary Elgin Room at the Museum in 1819, with portraits of staff, a trustee and visitors. The room was designed by the Museum’s Architect, Robert Smirke for the temporary display of the sculptures from the Parthenon brought from Athens by Lord Elgin, purchased by the Government and deposited in the British Museum in 1816.
The painting was donated by Dr J E Gray, Keeper of Zoology, in 1872. The donor remarked 'I venture to offer it as a present to the Trustees, being the last of my race, who has had many family connections with the Institution'. In two letters (11 and 13 December 1872) Gray identifies those present from personal recollection. The unidentified lady and gentleman (rear, right) are visitors whom he remembered 'walking arm-in-arm about the room'. Little is known about the artist, Archibald Archer who is seated at the right hand corner of the painting, his name on the portfolio at his feet. The date  appears in the lower left hand corner. Gray wrote: “The picture was painted by Mr Archer ... It was exhibited at the artist’s house in Hart Street, Bloomsbury, with another picture representing the embankment of the Thames ...The picture was purchased by Mr John Doubleday for Mr Edward Hawkins, at a dealer’s, and I bought it at Mr Phillips auction rooms in St James’ at the sale of Mr Hawkins’s pictures and drawings.” Hawkins was Keeper of Antiquities 1826-60, Doubleday a freelance restorer.
Following its arrival the painting was hung over the fireplace in the Board Room. In the 1879 List of Portraits... it is referred to as 'in the Boardroom ... a painting by A. Archer, showing the temporary arrangement of the Parthenon sculptures at the British Museum in 1819, with potraits of the President of the Royal Academy, officers of the British Museum, etc., presented by Dr J E Gray, FRS'.
The painting has been published as follows:
Journ. Hellenic Studies, XXXVI (1916), pp. 353-4 (which includes a copy of the key to the portraits). There is a copy of the key in the P&D box.
A full list of those present is published in The Connoisseur, CXLVII, 593, April 1962, p. 191.
Connoisseur, CXLVII, No. 593, April 1961, p. 190-1 (which gives Archer's dates as b. c. 1789-90, d. 1848).
BBC History Magazine, vol 4, No. 6, (2000) pp. 50-51.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
British Institution, no. 53, as 'Interior of the Elgin Room'
Old Boardroom (1879)
Department of Greek & Roman Antiquities, Keeper's Study
Anteroom to Boardroom
Pamela Hartwell Room
Anteroom to the Boardroom (23.4.82).
- Examined 2.iv.63. In need of cleaning and the canvas of tightening.
- Associated names
Portrait of: Benjamin Robert Haydon (Centre, seated right (1))
Portrait of: Charles Long, Baron Farnborough (Group behind seated figures, 1st left (2))
Portrait of: Rev. James Bean (Behind seated figures, 2nd from left (3))
Portrait of: Reverend Thomas Maurice (Group behind seated figures, 3rd from left (4))
Portrait of: Sir Henry Ellis (Group behind seated figures, 4th from left (5))
Portrait of: John George Children (Group behind seated figures, 5th from left (6))
Portrait of: Benjamin West (Seated, foreground, left (7))
Portrait of: Joseph Planta ((8))
Portrait of: Taylor Combe (Group behind seated figures, 6th from left, facing left (9))
Portrait of: Henry Hervey Baber (Group behind seated figures, 7th from left (10))
Portrait of: John Thomas Smith (Group behind seated figures, 8th from left, behind 'Ilissos' (11))
Portrait of: Dr John Edward Gray (Corner behind 'Ilissos' (12))
Portrait of: Archibald Archer (Foreground, right (13))
Portrait of: Charles Dietrich Eberhard König (Right of painting, behind artist, group of 3 figures (14))
Portrait of: John Conrath (Far right, holding long staff (15))
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Trustees' Standing Committee 14 December 1872. (c. 12,577). Gray provided details of the painting in a letter of 11 December 1872 (Original Papers Vol. 24 f. 9487) and 13 December 1872.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number