Cataloguer’s Conundrum: What is this building and where is it located? **SOLVED**

Friday 10 February 2012
A late 19th century albumen print of an unknown Neoclassical building. **Conundrum solved! It is now known that this is the Gerechtshof (law courts) at Ghent**

This albumen print is from an album (ms29951/1) of Italian photos collected by Professor James Donaldson (1813-1915), a classicist and theologian who served as Principal of the United College of St Andrews University from 1886-1915 and was Senior Principal of the University of St Andrews from 1890-1915. The cover of the album has been embossed ‘1891-1892’, and it was probably compiled 1891-1896 or later. The album has been heavily thumbed, as it probably served as a teaching aid.

The image in question is of a substantial Neoclassical style building with a stepped portico on an embankment, with a small boat to fore and tall chimney rising behind. We are looking for any clues as to what this building is and where it is located, and also if it is still extant!

Pam Cranston

Photographic Research and Preservation Officer

**UPDATE 11 February 2012 09:30**

Many thanks to commenters Andrew Grantham and Victoria Cormie, and an e-mail suggestion from Phil Oakman (Records Manager, University of Northampton), for solving this conundrum. When Andrew first suggested Het Gerechtshof at Ghent we were not convinced, as the building was strikingly similar but the decoration on the pediment was different and the dome in the picture above was missing. However, having been more convinced photo linked to by Vicki, and some further research into the building, we found out that the interior of the building was destroyed by fire in 1926 and that the pediment was redecorated with 11 bronzes in 1961. The exterior of the building was also cleaned and restored in the last 50 years. Today, the building still stands strong in the same place.

This album was made up of mostly images from Italy, but there are a few scattered through of Belgium as well, and so now we know that this was another!

**UPDATE 27 February 2012 09:30**

One of our Twitter followers, Lukas Koster, volunteered to take a photo of the Gerechtshof in Ghent while visiting there. His picture, taken from almost the same vantage point as our original, can be found on his Flickr page. Thanks Lukas, and to everyone else who helped solve this mystery!

Related topics

Share this story

12 thoughts on "Cataloguer’s Conundrum: What is this building and where is it located? **SOLVED**"

  • Christopher Whittick
    Christopher Whittick
    Friday 10 February 2012, 1.12pm

    it would help to know what was eitehr side of it in the album

    • St Andrews Special Collections
      Friday 10 February 2012, 3.08pm

      Pam is looking into this now and will come back with a reply soon!

    • St Andrews Special Collections
      Friday 10 February 2012, 3.55pm

      So the image in question is actually the last image in the album, preceeded by this photo of Trajan's Arch:

      • Vicky Brown
        Friday 10 February 2012, 5.50pm

        hmmmm, that's Benevento and there really is nowhere i can think of near there that looks like the image you are searching for.... ...

      • Vicky Brown
        Friday 10 February 2012, 5.51pm

        ...I have put my Italian relatives on an italy wide search via facebook....

  • St Andrews Special Collections
    Friday 10 February 2012, 3.54pm

    We've had two suggestions via e-mail that this might be The Pergamon Museum: , however it's not quite a match! More thoughts are welcome!

    • Pam
      Saturday 11 February 2012, 1.07am

      An interesting opinion is that it could be the Law Courts at Ghent. However the stonework on that building does not appear to match the frontage in our photograph. There are a number of Belgian photographs in the album though but most are Italian. Any further thoughts? Pam

  • Vicky Brown
    Friday 10 February 2012, 6.29pm look at the link here - about half way down - similar maybe - but not quite???

  • Joe Collier
    Friday 10 February 2012, 8.01pm

    I assume you've looked through this box in his collection: ms29965/1-35 Diaries, 1854, 1881-1905 for any clues as to an Italian trip he may have taken?

  • Andrew Grantham
    Friday 10 February 2012, 10.07pm

    I think it is the old court house in Gent, Belgium. Compare with

  • Victoria Cormie (@Viche)
    Saturday 11 February 2012, 1.22am - a modern picture from the same angle.

  • St Andrews Special Collections
    Saturday 11 February 2012, 10.35am

    Many thanks to Andrew and Victoria, and an email suggestion from Phil Oakman, after reading up on the Gerechtshof at Ghent and seeing photos from similar angles I think we can most definitely call this conundrum SOLVED!!


Leave a reply

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website.


Enter your email address here to receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 6,449 other subscribers.