The Distribution of Art Prizes, by F. R. Pickersgill (1820-1900), 1869. Oil on canvas, 1.5m x over 5m. Collection: Victoria and Albert Museum. Museum number: SKM.21. Image downloaded with permission. According to the information given on the museum's own website, this was one of a number of paintings commissioned in 1869, mostly from historical genre painters, to decorate the National Competition Gallery at the Museum, now Rooms 100 and 101. Pickersgill and Val Prinsep were to be responsible for the over-door spaces, with Pickersgill deciding to depict young Florentine artists of the Renaissance period receiving prizes, and Prinsep providing a work that complements it, depicting Venetian artists.

Left: A prizewinner receiving his award. Right: While one young man waits, another is being congratulated, and crowned with laurels by a young woman. [Click on these images, and the one above, to enlarge them.]

The subject is not an emotive one, but it probably meant a good deal to Pickersgill, who had twice won prizes in the competitions to decorate the Palace of Westminster (in 1843 and 1847), and had got married in the year he won the second, much larger prize. — Jacqueline Banerjee

Created 14 March 2019