Decorative grill from the Palace of Westminster

Designer Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin British
Attributed to John Hardman & Co. British

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 516

These decorative grill panels exemplify the designs of Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (1812–1852), who was the leading exponent of the Gothic Revival style in England. Pugin’s work is central to the transformation in British design that began in the mid-nineteenth century. He admired what he saw as the honesty and purity of medieval art, and deplored the meaningless repetition of historical motifs. Pugin coined the phrase "Brumagen Gothic," referring to "those inexhaustible mines of bad taste, Birmingham."

The medieval Palace of Westminster, much altered by later additions, was almost entirely destroyed by a devastating fire which broke out on October 16, 1834. When the last flames were finally contained five days later, only Westminster Hall and parts of the chapel were standing. The following Spring, a competition was held for the design of a modern building that could accommodate the state apartments, the House of Lords with the ceremonial spaces it required, and the House of Commons. A. W. N. Pugin collaborated with architect Charles Barry (1795–1860) in designing an exuberant tribute to Britishness. Built in the Perpendicular style, with elaborately detailed interior finishes, the decoration celebrated Britain's Arthurian and Christian heroes and the virtues of its Parliamentary system.

The brass grills are one component of Pugin's complex interior program. Executed in several different patterns inspired by medieval tracery, they were typically mounted into the midsection of double-wide doors that separated private rooms from the public corridor. While a much smaller scale, the grill panels are designed with similar motifs and character to Pugin’s great pierced doors that lead from the Peers’ Lobby to the Chamber in the House of Lords. Pugin also designed an array of other brass fittings for the interior, including large doors, candelabra and other light fixtures, hardware, and gallery railings. These grills were manufactured by John Hardman.

Decorative grill from the Palace of Westminster, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin (British, London 1812–1852 Ramsgate), Brass, British, Birmingham

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