Royal masterpieces headed to the Queen’s Gallery for the first time

It is described as ‘one of the largest and most important art collections in the world, and one of the last great European royal collections to remain intact’.

Previously only seen by visitors to Buckingham Palace during private receptions and the summer opening, from December 2020, 65 artworks from the Royal Collection will be seen for the first time in a gallery exhibition setting.

Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace’ will go on show at the Queen’s Gallery in London from 4 December 2020 until 31 January 2022. It will offer visitors a rare opportunity to admire some of the most important paintings in the Royal Collection, which are normally exhibited inside the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace.

The paintings are among 10,000 items from the Royal Collection that need to be temporarily removed from the palace while refurbishment works on its wiring and lead pipes take place at an estimated cost of £369 million.

Among the masterpieces to go on display are ‘The Music Lesson’ (1662-1665) by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675). One of only 35 Vermeer paintings in the world, the work is said to carry a titillating subtext, which hints at a romantic relationship between a music student and her tutor.

Visitors will also be able to view Rembrandt’s (1606-1669) ‘The Shipbuilder and his Wife’ (1633) up close, said to be a personal favourite of Queen Elizabeth II. According to the surveyor of the Queen’s pictures, Desmond Shawe-Taylor, it is an ‘almost comic depiction of a relationship between husband and wife, so it’s got a very modern feel to it’.

Also on view will be works by Titian (active about 1506; died 1576), Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641) and Canaletto (1697-1768) among others.

Roughly half the paintings due to go on display were acquired by King George IV. Known as an ‘outstanding, if extravagant, collector and builder’, it was George IV who specially commissioned architect John Nash to convert Buckingham House into the principal royal residence. This included the creation of the Picture Gallery to house the King’s collection of Dutch, Flemish and Italian Old Master paintings. It was Queen Victoria who first opened the Picture Gallery to the public during the summer months when the Royal Family were not in residence.

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