Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Queen's Gallery! or My History Crush: Up Close and Only Separated by a Thin Sheet of Glass

I know I promised Jilly beansTALK a lovely 1930s fashion theme, but I'm actually rather good at overlapping my promises, and I DID tell Vikipedia several weeks ago that I would be posting all about my LOVELY morning at the Queen's Gallery's current exhibit: Victoria and Albert (My history crush, in case you'd forgotten): Love and Art.

It featured impressively large paintings, like this one:
And then the gift shop sold postcards of the same painting, but flipped around! *sigh* I particularly enjoy the upsidedownness of Princess Helena in this picture, trying to figure out what on earth is going on!

The second room in the exhibit (we'll come back to the first one soon enough) featured a plethora of paintings and other knick-knacks that they had given each other. Hilary noted that Victoria seemed to be fond of giving Albert large paintings of topless women for his birthday. Like Winterhalter's 1853 "Florinda":
So anyone still convinced of her prudishness, you can throw that one out the window.

In later exhibit rooms, there were bits of personal artwork - both by Victoria, and her children, and some music composed by Albert! I particularly fell in love with this gem of a self portrait of Queen V herself! I think it's splendid to get such a personal look at how she saw herself! (age 25)

The very last room was dedicated to Albert's death, which was all quite tragic and sad, so I'm going to breeze right past that and return to the first room! Where I spent quite a few minutes drooling over these portraits:
I wish that I could put them next to each other here, but I'll not waste time lamenting that I can't and carry on with I was two feet away from these ACTUAL paintings! *swooooooon* Both are, yet again, by Winterhalter, done in 1842, two years after their marriage! (I think I'll *swoon* again for good measure)

Here are two more paintings that I particularly like that were included in the exhibit:
Queen Victoria and Prince Arthur

Victoria and a cousin in 1852

In one of the little alcove rooms was an entire case of PHOTOGRAPHS!!!! It was just me and the glass.... There were many from the Strangers At A Bus Stop set:
In which a dashing Prince Albert breaks the unsuspecting Queen out of her ponderings of Important Matters Of State long enough to ask her if the Number 7 bus had passed that way yet. There were many that I've seen, a few I haven't(!), and I know of a few more that didn't make the cut! There were also some lovely photographs of their children, including a tintype of two of her daughters (and I can't for the life of me remember which ones) that I would LOVE to get my hands on! Hilary had to drag me away from that display as well....

Finally, we come to one of my favorite paintings, loved, if not for the portrait itself, then for the story that goes with it. You've all seen it:
It is another Winterhalter, this time from 1843. She commissioned this portrait and presented it to Albert as a birthday present to him. Unlike the rest of her/their portraits, she's not sitting/standing ramrod straight, her hair is not severely pulled back and decorated, but falling elegantly and informally over her bare shoulder (Albert LOVED her shoulders). It was intended for his eyes only; a portrait of the woman he loved, not his Queen. He declared it his favourite portrait of her and hung it in one of his rooms in Windsor. *swoon!*

I almost went back to the Gallery a few days later with some more friends, just to stare and sigh dreamily at them. If you're in England: GO SEE IT. It's Beautiful!

1 comment:

moorvy said...

*swoooooon* There, I just HAD to - it was amazinnnnng wasn't it?! Weren't the 2 daughters in the photo Lenchen and Louise? I think I remember a photo of them. Also, two of the ones with QV and Beatrice I'd never seen before either.

I loved all the jewels as well - do you reckon that it was the REAL Koh-i-Noor?? I hope so... I absolutely LOVE the secret portrait - my friend who was with me didn't believe it was actually Victoria!! I couldn't believe how big the 1846 Winterhalter portrait was either (and I agree that Helena's expression is brilliant - poor Affie's still at the cross-dressing age though - I feel a bit sorry for him and Arthur when they were older and having to stand in front of paintings of them in dresses and lace when talking to their chums...)

I'll second the plea to make people go. I nearly exploded with excitement a couple of times. :)