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

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!

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

    • 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?


  1. 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?

  2. 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!!

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