Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had a shared enthusiasm for art.
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Art was an important part of everyday life for the couple and also a way to express their love for each other. Objects in their collection range from jewellery to early Italian painting to a piano and throne.
Prince Albert’s taste for his Germany ancestry is demonstrated in his collection of early German paintings. There is a large collection of paintings by Franz Xaver Winterhalter who produced formal portraits as well as a painting commissioned by Victoria in 1843 as a surprise gift for Albert’s 24th birthday.
As frequent visitors to the Royal Academy they had the opportunity to make purchases such as the first work by Frederic Leighton entitled Madonna Carried in Procession. They also purchased works when visiting artists’ studios. Edwin Landseer was a favourite artist of the couple.
In addition to paintings Victoria and Albert supported photography, a new art at the time. They commissioned hundreds of photographs of their family, friends and household.
One of Queen Victoria’s dresses was designed by Eugene Lami for an 1851 Stuart ball. The couple’s talent for music is reflected in their decorated Erard piano commissioned by the Queen in 1856.
They also collected sculpture in the classical style as well as porcelain by Sevres and Minton. The Queen also purchased furniture.
Jewels from the directors of the East India Company were presented to the Queen at the end of the Great Exhibition and these include a 352.5 carat Timur ruby. Prince Albert’s made many gifts of jewellery to the Queen.
Highlights of their collections include a painting entitled The Royal Family, by Winterhalter; a painting of Prince Albert by Sir William Ross; The Children at Osborne painted by Queen Victoria; Triptych: the Crucifixion and other scenes by Duccio di Buoninsenga; an Italian Renaissance style centrepiece with Albert’s and Victoria’s dogs incorporated designed by Prince Albert; an ivory throne and footstool presented to the Queen by the Maharajah Martanda Varma of India; a jewel cabinet (1851) from Albert to Victoria decorated with plaques depicting six of the royal children; the gilded piano decorated with paintings of monkeys and children.
Other items include a Swiss writing table of 1851 with carvings of milkmaids, farmers and shepherds in costume (first displayed at the Great Exhibition and purchased by the Queen and Prince); an organ blossom parure given by Prince Albert on his engagement to Victoria and with later additions; and Queen Victoria’s wedding brooch from Albert consisting of a large sapphire set round with diamonds.
All photographs courtesy the Royal Collection