First Exhibition Ever to Focus on Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's Enthusiasm for Art (London)





This exhibition is the first ever to focus on Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s shared enthusiasm for art. Bringing together more than 400 items from the Royal Collection, it celebrates the royal couple’s mutual delight in collecting and displaying works of art, from the time of their engagement in 1839 to the Prince’s untimely death in 1861. The exhibition also challenges the popular image of Victoria – the melancholy widow of 40 years – and reveals her as a passionate and open-minded young woman.

For Victoria and Albert, art was an important part of everyday life and a way they expressed their love for each other. Around a third of the objects in the exhibition were exchanged as gifts between the couple to mark special occasions. They range from the simple and sentimental, such as a set of jewellery in the form of orange blossom, to superb examples of early Italian painting, including Bernardo Daddi’s The Marriage of the Virgin and Perugino’s Saint Jerome in Penitence, both given by the Queen to the Prince for his birthday in 1846.

Prince Albert’s taste was influenced by his German ancestry and his experience as a student in Florence and Rome. He led a revival of interest in early German and Italian painting at a time when ‘the Primitives’ were largely ignored. Among his acquisitions were Duccio’s Triptych, the first acknowledged work by the artist to enter an English collection, and Apollo and Diana by Lucas Cranach. Albert was also interested in how paintings were displayed, and several of the pictures in the exhibition are shown in the frames he commissioned for them. The Queen’s tastes were more mainstream than those of her husband. She appreciated the narrative qualities of pictures such as Ramsgate Sands: ‘Life at the Seaside’ by William Powell Frith. Her fondness for portraiture is shown through paintings and drawings of her family, and her own sketches of her children.

The royal couple were regular visitors to the annual Royal Academy exhibition and frequently made purchases...


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