Of the many paintings in the Inn, some of them very fine, four may be selected for mention. At the north end of the Old Hall, above the place where the Lord Chancellor used to sit, hangs Hogarth's vast canvas (10 feet by 14 feet) of Paul Before Felix (based on Acts, c. 24). This was commissioned under a bequest to the Inn of £200 made in 1745 by Lord Wyndham, a former Lord Chancellor of Ireland; and it has remained in its present position almost continuously since 1748. In 1970 it was cleaned and restored, with the removal of some of the “improvements” made on a previous restoration in 1819.
In the Great Hall, the whole of the upper part of the plaster of the north wall is occupied by the enormous fresco by G. F. Watts, O.M., R.A. The painting, some 45 feet wide by 40 feet high, is entitled Justice, A Hemicycle of Lawgivers. It includes some two dozen named figures (including Solon, Draco, Moses, Ptah, Confucius, Alfred, Justinian, Manu, and Mahomet), and ten others, including monks, scribes and a druid. For some of the figures, Watts made studies from his friends. Thus Justinian was drawn from Sir William Vernon Harcourt, Alfred from Emma, Lady Lilford, and Minos from Lord Tennyson. The fresco took several years to paint, and was completed in 1859. It is a true fresco, painted on freshly laid plaster while it was still moist, and its maintenance has set severe problems. In the last hundred years it has had to be treated on a number of occasions, most recently in 1986. Flood-lighting now displays the colours to advantage.
Also in the Great Hall, hanging on the eastern side, is an oil painting by Norman Hepple, R.A., made in 1958, entitled Short Adjournment. It commemorates the occasion when six out of the nine members of the Court of Appeal were benchers of the Inn; and it shows them as they might have been seen any day after lunch in the Benchers' Drawing Room, wearing court dress but no robes. While the painting was in progress, one of the six was elevated to the House of Lords and became Lord Denning; but in his place another bencher of the Inn was appointed, and so the painting includes all seven figures, with that of Lord Denning appropriately in motion towards the door.
A coloured reproduction forms the frontispiece to vol. 75 of the Law Quarterly Review, and is separately available. In 1979, the Treasurer, Lord Renton, commissioned a corresponding portrait by William Dring, R.A. This was to commemorate the fact that the Prime Minister, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, M.P., the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham of St. Marylebone, the Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Widgery, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Denning, and the Vice-Chancellor, Sir Robert Megarry, were all benchers of the Inn. They too are shown in the Drawing Room, with the Prime Minister in front of the portrait of William Pitt, as they, might appear on a guest night in the Inn.
Previous: Armorial Bearings >