The Picture Gallery by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema was purchased by Burnley Corporation in 1925. The painting was originally commissioned in 1874 by Ernest Gambart (1814-1902), Spanish Consul in Nice. It was hung in his villa in Nice until his death in 1902. Mr. Gambart is depicted in the painting, standing upright with a baldhead.
Gambart was the leading Victorian print publisher and art dealer. He encouraged the Dutch painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema to come to England, where he became one of the most famous and highly paid artists of his time.
"The Picture Gallery" was one of 4 versions of the painting and a smaller version was engraved. This created controversy in the town shortly after the purchase when someone suggested that the Burnley purchase was a replica
A Towneley Mystery - Burnley Express August 15th 1925 - Is it a replica?
The purchase price of over £1,000 was a large amount for the Corporation to pay for any painting at that time and was made possible through the bequest of a local benefactor, Caleb Thornber J. P. . The Art Gallery Committee would have had some explaining to do. In fact Mr. Gambart paid 10 times that amount when it was commissioned. None of the other versions of the painting nor the engraving included Ernest Gambart as he wanted his own version to be unique. So this painting has a special place in the history of art in Victorian Britain.