Unlike other European monarchs whose glory gradually faded as the political systems changed and people became less interested or more critical of the imperial legacy, the majority of the Brits are still transfixed with their Sovereign and the Royal family. This tendency of preserving the tradition, the customs, and the class differences stands at the core of what appears to be national pride.
The site recognized as the epitome of the United Kingdom is the Buckingham Palace, the residency of Queen Elizabeth II. It holds a remarkable collection with artworks made by some of the leading Old masters. At the end of the current year, the Queen’s Gallery will open its doors for the visitors who will have a unique chance to see sixty-five paintings from the Royal collection installed in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace.
The upcoming exhibition will provide a historical evolution of the Picture Gallery after George III and Queen Charlotte acquired the Buckingham House in 1762. Interestingly so, their initial arrangements of Flemish, Dutch, and Italian works, still influence the hang in the Picture Gallery to this day.
Out of the total number, thirty-four of the paintings that will be shown were acquired by their son, George IV, amid the transformation of the Buckingham House into the principal royal palace in the 1820s, when the Picture Gallery was erected for the display of George IV’s collection of paintings.
The Picture Gallery was opened to the public for the first time decades later during Queen Victoria’s reign (in 1851, Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert supervised the redecoration of the room). Today, the Picture Gallery is usually opened during the annual Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace.
The exhibition will offer different themes present in the selected works, one of them being the artists' use of paint. For instance, Rubens’ Self-Portrait (1623) perfectly illustrates his treatment of color, as well as Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and his Wife (1633). On display will also be the paintings evoking an incredible realism enhanced by the use of illusionistic design such as Agatha Bas (1641) by Rembrandt and A Woman at her Toilet (1663) by Jan Steen.
Other works like Canaletto’s The Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day (c.1733–4) bring lively images of people and places, as well as Cardplayers in a Sunlit Room by Pieter de Hooch (1658) or Titian’s Jacopo Sannazaro (c.1514). The idealism rooted in classical art will be seen in Pallas Athene (c.1535) by Parmigianino, and Guido Reni’s Cleopatra with the Asp (c.1628).
Although the interpretation of the collection may require critical intervention, the same will undoubtedly shed light on some of the most fruitful artists and therefore enable visitors to learn more about the currents of European art history throughout the centuries.
Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace will be on display at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, from 4 December 2020 throughout January 2022.
Featured image: The Picture Gallery. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020.