There are more than 7,000 works of art in the Royal Collection. The works are of the highest quality and range from Early Italian paintings from around 1300 to modern pictures given as gifts to our Monarch today. They come in all shapes and sizes from pictures designed to cover the wall of a Royal Palace to the small, private paintings that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert would give to one another as private tokens of devotion.
At her coronation, our Queen became custodian of the Royal Collection. She promised to care for the Royal Collection and to pass the works on to the next generation in as good a condition or better than that in which she inherited them. Often criticised in the press for not increasing the Royal Collection in a fashion of previous monarchs, our Queen has concentrated on maintaining the quality of the works and making them more accessible to the public than ever before. The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace and now the new Cumberland Gallery at Hampton Court Palace are just two new venues with changing exhibitions that have been opened in the past decade.
The important thing about the Royal Collection is that it reflects the taste of the monarch at the time. Some monarchs were better than others at looking after and caring for the Royal Collection. Charles 1 was probably our greatest connoisseur of art whereas William 1V was said not to know a decent painting from a window shutter. He believed that paintings were for women or imbeciles.
Charles 1 employed the first keeper of the paintings. Abraham van der Doort was a Dutchman and particularly interested in designing coins for the Royal mint.Van der Doorts records and notes on the paintings still clearly exist and the fascinating thing about them is that he wrote the entries in the same Dutch accent that he would have spoken in.
There is a beautiful altarpiece in the collection that was painted by Duccio of Siena in around 1308. It is a folding altarpiece in which the doors could be closed for travelling. It folded into a flat panel which could then be re-installed easily by opening the doors when the destination was reached. Duccio was to Siena what Giotto was to Florence. When Duccio painted the Maestá, the main altarpiece in Siena in 1311 the shops were closed to allow the citizens to gather in the streets and see the magnificent painting parade past them.
To be continued shortly…..