Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Victoria and Albert: Art and Love at The Queen’s Gallery

The Queen and Prince Albert on May 11, 1854
Victoria and Albert: Art and Love 
at The Queen’s Gallery
March 19 - October 31, 2010


On my flight to London last month, I watched “The Young Victoria,” a film about Queen Victoria’s early days as a monarch and her courtship with her cousin, and the love of her life, Albert.  The movie is delightful and thought-provoking, so Victoria was on my mind as I wandered the streets of London. 

And I wasn’t alone... Queen Victoria (1819-1901) remains one of England’s most loved monarchs even a century after her death.  This year "Victoria & Albert: Art & Love” celebrates her romance with Prince Albert (1819-1861) and their shared passion for the arts. 



Centered on the collaborations that bonded Victoria and Albert intellectually as well as emotionally, “Victoria & Albert: Art & Love” paints a portrait of the royal couple as taste-makers and patrons.  Both were passionate about the arts -- music, drama, the visual arts -- and they actively participated in the creation of great art together.  From Albert’s pet project, the Great Exhibition in 1851, to their friendship with musicians including Schubert, to their love for opera, architecture, and painting, the two created art together and influenced the art world around them. 
Queen Victoria's gown for the Stuart Ball, 1851
The elegant exhibit recreates vignettes of that world.  Works by Perugino and Duccio speak to the Prince’s love for early Italian Renaissance Art while furnishings from the family’s home at Balmoral Castle illustrate a life of practicality and elegant taste.  The audio tour, included with the cost of admission, includes recordings of Albert’s musical compositions as well as interviews, recordings of other music important to the couple, and insightful information about most of the works in the exhibit. And watercolors and illustrations document parties and balls at the Palace as well as the decor of the royal’s personal chambers and the vistas of their beloved country. 
The Children at Osbourne painted by Queen Victoria in 1850

While “Victoria & Albert: Art & Love” is about the royal couple as patrons of the arts, it is also about their own artistic lives.  I was particularly struck by Victoria’s sweet watercolors of her own children -- paintings which reminded me of the illustrations of Tasha Tudor and Beatrix Potter with their simplicity and light.  And Victoria and Albert’s nine children often mounted their own theatrical productions at the palace -- productions which are immortalized in watercolors and sketches. 
Photo by Angela K. Nickerson

The Gypsy’s Essentials

  • Location: on Buckingham Gate at the east side of Buckingham Palace
  • Price: Adult £8.75; Adult £8.75; Over 60/Student (with valid ID) £7.75; Under 17 £4.50; Under 5 Free; Family (2 adults, 3 under 17s) £22.00 [admission includes an audio guide]
  • Who will love it?:  romantics and fans of Victoriana, clearly.  But there’s a little something for everyone in this exhibit -- jewels, clothes, photographs, drawings, guns, paintings... It helps to know a little something about Victoria and Albert before you arrive, however.  So watch “The Young Victoria” and then see the exhibit. 
  • Notes:  the family rate is a great deal, and this is a wonderful museum for children.  It is small and focused.  A visit only takes 60-90 minutes.  And with the “Victoria & Albert” exhibit, the audio guide is included in the price.  
  • Advance Ticketing: while I didn’t have trouble just walking in off the street, advance ticketing is suggested for the summer months.  The museum is small, and they keep it from being crowded.  Tickets can be purchased online at The Royal Collection Ticket Office or by phone: +44 (0)20 7766 7301.
Queen Victoria by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1843
Hanging amongst the personal artifacts of the royal couple, the painting Victoria commissioned of herself shows her in a most intimate pose with her hair cascading down about her shoulders and a dreamy look in her eyes -- clearly a love letter to her husband and one which she never intended to be made public. 

Drawn from the Royal Collection, the exhibit also contains artifacts from the Queen’s life including a gown from one of her costume balls.  Standing next to the diminutive dress made me feel very tall because Queen Victoria was not!  And two small rooms twinkle with the Queen’s personal gems -- many of them gifts from her husband.  Indeed, the exhibit artfully illustrates the Prince’s love for Victoria and hers for him. 

And it was that love which moved me to tears at the end of the exhibit.  In 1861 Prince Albert was suddenly taken ill and died.  Queen Victoria sank into deep mourning, and the artifacts of that strickened grief make the last room of the exhibit a moving tribute to the end of Victoria and Albert’s partnership. 

This was my first visit to The Queen’s Gallery, and given the quality of this exhibit as well as the  charming nature of the museum itself -- intimate and distinctive -- it will not be my last. 

The Oriental Circlet, 1853
The Queen’s Gallery
The Official Residence of The Queen
London, England
SW1A 1AA
http://www.royalcollection.org.uk
Tel (+44) (0)20 7766 7301
Fax (+44) (0)20 7930 9625
bookinginfo@royalcollection.org.uk 

If you can’t make it to London for “Victoria & Albert: Art & Love,” check out the exhibit’s website.  There you’ll find images from the exhibit as well as recordings, videos, and a wealth of information about Queen Victoria and her Consort:  http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/microsites/vanda/index.asp

All images (except where noted): The Royal Collection © 2010, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

1 comment:

Riley and Julie said...

That's so cool! How Interesting.

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