Aims and Background

Aims and Background

The project will transform our understanding of the part played by the Catholic Church in translating European culture to Australia. It will do this by exploring three aspects of the cultural legacy of James Alipius Goold (1812 – 1886), the first Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne.

His collection of paintings, architectural commissions and library are all aspects of a man whose mission was to build a diocese and to enrich it with European culture. Goold is an ideal subject as a case study for the translation of European culture to the Australian colonies. As an Irishman, he was part of the emerging post-emancipation middle class. As an Augustinian, his early education was based in late 18th century Neoclassicism and he had a distinctly Roman aesthetic, reflecting the five years he spent studying theology and working as a priest in that city. This was frequently reinforced in the five return visits he made during his episcopate. Goold’s Irish and Augustinian background contrasts to the first Bishop of Sydney, John Bede Polding, who was English and Benedictine. The project will highlight significant differences in the emergence of Catholic patronage in different parts of Australia in the colonial period. The significance of our study of Goold’s collections and architecture in the devotional life of the Colony of Victoria will make multiple contributions to a new understanding of Colonial Australian historiography and architectural historiography. It will play a continuing role in the interpretations of Australian nineteenth-century culture. Instead of a narrative of convict history, our project defines another narrative of how Irish/Australian patronage, inspired by Catholic theological and aesthetic sensibilities, created a permanent imprint on the built environment of Melbourne. As a study of the collecting of Baroque art in Australia it will make a unique contribution to current debates about the impact of this first global style in the New World. The obvious point of comparison is the Baroque in South America, a long established field of enquiry, for which there has been no previous parallel in Australia. European scholars had not even defined the Baroque when Goold imported his collection.

Although Goold’s commissioning of Neo-Gothic churches may initially appear inconsistent with his collection of late Baroque religious painting, consultation with early English sources on the Gothic revival reveals similarities between both styles, both being perceived as deeply religious. Charles Eastlake’s contemporary account, A History of the Gothic Revival. An attempt to show how the taste for mediaeval architecture which lingered in England in the last two centuries has since been encouraged and developed, 1872, considers both styles as anticlassical, with Neoclassicism as a mistaken interlude between the Baroque and the Neo Gothic. Goold probably read Eastlake, and Wardell certainly did. Kenneth Clark followed Eastlake’s interpretation in his highly influential polemical book, The Gothic Revival, 1928, when he describes the Neo-Gothic as antipathetic to Palladian classicism. In all their writings nothing inspires these Englishmen more than the Gothic Revival, as it is the only ‘true’ English architectural style, yet in painting they are pro Italian. Goold’s taste for the late Baroque, reflects an appreciation of the dramatic and emotional appeal of the art of this period, and his  patronage of Wardell, one of the most scholarly Neo-Gothic architects, demonstrates an even richer dimension, and a much older medieval tradition. All of this is evident in his Library and what remains of this collection is the map of his mind. Goold with his allegiance to Rome and the Papacy stands outside the colonial establishment with its attachment to London and to England as ‘home’ and his work in creating a cultural expression of Catholicism in Australia thus provides a perfect portal into a different perspective on how Australia became European. Educated by the Augustinians in Cork, Ireland, he joined the order at the age of 18 and left for Italy when 20 to complete his studies at the Irish Augustinian College in Rome where he was ordained a priest in 1835. At Rome Goold discovered religious painting of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The late Baroque, as distinct from the Baroque (1580-1740), is a lengthy period of almost a century (1640-1740), an entirely Latin phenomenon, rarely discussed in English, but popular in Catholic countries like France, Italy, Spain and Germany. The one English account is Sachervill Sitwell’s eccentric and frequently republished Southern Baroque Art, A study of Painting, Architecture and Music in Italy and Spain in the 17th and 18th centuries, 1923. The Baroque is often perceived as the first ‘global’ style in art history, but our research will be the first study that shows its impact down under and the critical reception of that style within the devotional experience of Catholics in Colonial Australia as well as the permanent imprint of the architecture within the built environment. The most popular name associated with this style is Piranesi, and Goold owned the first Paris printing of his work, an extraordinary and very expensive item to find in the Library of a missionary Bishop. Goold shared his collecting interests with his uncle, Bishop James Hynes, who bought original seventeenth century paintings as well as commissioned copies after Renaissance works, described in his diary. Hynes also acted as agent for Goold in Rome. We shall investigate Hynes’ early formative influence on Goold as a collector.

In the early nineteenth century many sacred works of art came on the market from deconsecrated ecclesiastical institutions. Preliminary research suggests that Goold bought at least 70 late Baroque paintings to Australia as well as a number of copies after famous Italian Renaissance works of art, notably after Raphael. Original devotional works from monasteries were cheaper to buy rather than to commission new altarpieces. Goold understood their dramatic appeal to the viewer’s emotions and their place in his missionary purpose. To date the most significant discovery is Jacques Stella’s altarpiece of Jesus in the Temple found by his Parents, originally commissioned for the church of the Jesuit Noviciate, Paris, in 1641, to be published in a refereed article by CI Anderson in the Burlington Magazine in April 2016.

Goold’s missionary activities were principally directed towards building schools  and churches. His architectural patronage has left a permanent imprint on the built  environment of Melbourne. It was his good fortune to employ William Wardell on the  recommendation of Cardinal Newman, firstly for St Patrick’s Cathedral and later for  many parish churches and schools. Wardell’s architectural style was Neo Gothic. As  discussed earlier, one might think that Neo-Gothic Architecture and late Baroque painting  are antithetical, but in Goold’s patronage they married well, as anyone entering St  Patrick’s will realise when they see the placement of Jacques Stella’s altarpiece, a  masterpiece of Sacred Baroque Classicism, in the Baptistery. The Archbishop’s aesthetic  is reflected in his Library. Alongside the Piranesi, the most impressive item, were many other large illustrated books on art and architecture, including the key texts on Gothic  revival by Pugin and others. Goold’s taste was thus educated and purposeful, and by  drawing on the Late Baroque and the Gothic he cast his missionary Church after a  European model.

Goold’s cultural patronage is unexplored territory. F. X. Martin, professor of Irish Medieval History at Trinity College, Dublin, undertook the earliest research, but published only two articles in preparation for a biography that was never written (The Catholic Weekly, Thursday 8 January 1953). In a subsequent study of the global activities of Augustinians, Martin found Goold exceptional for his educational policy and architectural commissions. The next scholarly account was a history Honours Thesis submitted by J. R. J. Grigsby (University of Melbourne 1962). A study of the growth and administration of the Catholic Church in Melbourne under Goold, it concluded with a dismissive assessment repeated in Grigsby’s Australian Dictionary of Biography entry published a decade later: ‘(Goold) had no broad views or scholastic achievement and ruled his archdiocese with conservatism and single- mindedness of an Irish bishop in an Irish see.’ Grigsby’s ADB entry coincided with a change in leadership of the Melbourne Archdiocese. James Knox, imbued with the spirit of change of the Second Vatican Council, was appointed Archbishop in 1967. Goold’s palace and St Patrick’s College were demolished to create a new diocesan center. In the Cathedral, a new sanctuary was made for the reformed liturgy and much of Goold’s collection of paintings, ecclesiastical objects, vestments, and his library were sent into storage in a newly constituted and under resourced Melbourne Diocesan Historical Commission.

Frances O’Kane’s book A Path is Set (1976), based on her 1973 University of Melbourne MA thesis, gave a more balanced view. O’Kane’s focus was on the earliest years of the Catholic Church in the Port Phillip District and Victoria (1839 – 1862) and dealt with internal church politics as well as the relationship between Church and State. It recorded Goold’s architectural commissions and the fact that the single story northern wing of his palace held his Library. An exhibition in St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1998, revised Goold’s place in Church history and his place as a collector. Fr John Rogan curated the exhibition assisted by CI Carmody and CI Vodola. The catalogue from the exhibition remains the most authoritative though incomplete account of Goold’s collection.

TROVE has made it possible to study Goold’s daily existence through newspapers. CI Anderson was able to find evidence that Goold’s first shipment of paintings came to Australia on the brig Amy on 23rd June 1853. Freeman’s Journal, 6 August 1853, describes a ‘large case of paintings’ consigned to the Bishop of Melbourne.

They are principally of the Italian school, and are intended for the decoration of the Church of St Francis, Lonsdale Street. Some of these pictures are most gorgeous and of colossal proportion.

The words ‘gorgeous’ and ‘colossal proportion’ certainly match the Stella as well as the Crucifixion Altarpiece in the Church of St Francis, Melbourne. The church of St Francis is the oldest Catholic Church in Melbourne and the Stella would have been shown there before St Patrick’s Cathedral was completed. The date 1853 follows on from Goold’s first European excursion after his appointment as Bishop. As our research develops such details will be matched with the export orders from Rome, at least one of these paintings having the Roman Custom’s stamp on their reverse.

We shall complete the documentation and cataloguing of Goold’s library, beyond the Piranesi folios, to understand the framework of his patronage. Five paintings from the collection have been chosen for detailed examination from a collection of 70. Condition reports by a professional restorer will document the age of these Baroque paintings. They will be analysed by high-resolution digital collection allied with photography and infra radiography to facilitate consultation with experts abroad on their attribution. Anderson will examine in depth the important Wardell archive in the Mitchell Library, which contains all his papers at the time of death and which has been surprisingly little consulted in publications on Australian Colonial Architecture. We are unable to incorporate the results of this research here as it will not be complete before submission of this grant proposal.

The significance of Goold’s collection is that he created a collection that was the equivalent of a National Gallery that has never been recognized. When compared with international colonial collections in South America, Goold’s collection is more significant in quality and provenance. His collecting was about devotion, never aesthetic. While preliminary research has revealed that at least one painting, Jacques Stella’s altarpiece, was a ‘masterpiece’, others such as the altarpiece of the Crucifixion in the church of St Francis, is not of quality, and is so over painted that it is impossible to attribute. In global terms here is the Baroque in Australia, visible to millions of parishioners but unrecognised. Key to the project is detailed research into the origins, extent and quality of Goold’s collection of paintings and his Library. How these relate to his architectural commissions, especially St Patrick’s Cathedral will be explored in a PhD Dissertation on the relationship between Goold and his architect, William Wilkinson Wardell.