Cranleigh Arts Centre
West Surrey Area
Museums & Art Galleries
Victoria and Prince Albert
Patrons of the Arts, Art Collectors and
Report of the lecture given by Oliver Everett
on September 26th 2012
were held spellbound (to quote our Chairman) by the absorbing and humorous
lecture we heard from Oliver Everett on the patronage of the Arts by Queen
Victoria and Prince Albert.
We started with a picture of Princess Victoria at the age of two with her
mother, the Duchess of Kent. Through the Duchess, they had royal family
connections in Germany, Belgium and France, which played a significant part in
their artistic activities by bringing them into contact with the leading figures
of the art world of their times.
They also chose four anniversaries in their lives as events to be marked with
gifts of art to one another.
We were taken quickly to a review of selected paintings acquired or
commissioned by the royal couple starting with a painting of their wedding in
1840. We then saw a picture painted by Winterhalter, showing her at leisure,
hair cascading over her shoulders which are bared to the viewer. This was
followed by pictures of social events hosted by the Queen and Prince Albert in
Buckingham Palace where there were depictions of sometimes as many as 1,500 to
2,000 guests all in fancy dress with an historical or Indian theme.
Prince Albert had a marked architectural interest. The Prince was very
taken with Italian art and we saw pictures of features of the Crystal Palace
where an Italian influence in the design and appearance was evident.
Both the Queen and Prince Albert were keen musicians. The Queen was so
keen on playing the piano that she had one in every royal residence. In one,
there were fifteen pianos, twelve of which were made by the German, Jerard.
Prince Albert was shown in one picture playing the organ. In another, he and
the Queen were shown playing the piano in her drawing room.
Gruner was appointed artistic adviser to the couple and was instrumental in the
acquisition of many of the pictures they collected. Prince Albert was very keen
on the works of Raphael. He ended up with over 5,000 works or copies of works
by Raphael which he kept in a huge, specially made chest-of-drawers in his
study. Winterhalter's picture (8 ft by nearly 6 ft) of Florinda, a favourite
wooed by the King of Spain in the eighth century, was painted a the request of
the Queen. Lord Leighton submitted a picture to the Royal Academy showing a
procession in 1285 of notable historical characters through Florence
accompanying the Madonna. This picture was bought by the Queen.
Prince Albert brought his favourite dog, called Eos, to England. The dog is
pictured in a Lanseer picture commissioned by the Queen for the Prince. Another
Lanseer picture, this time with a stag, was acquired by the Prince in 1842.
Lanseer also was commissioned by the Queen to paint a picture of a lion tamer
and his animals who were putting on a show at Drury Lane. The Queen is said to
have seen the show seven times during the six weeks the show lasted.
The Queen was so fond of sculpture that a sculpture corridor was created in
Osborne House. Trained by Canova, John Gibson was commissioned to create a
number of sculptures for the Queen.
Prince Albert was very interested in design in art. Garrards, the London
jewellers, produced a magnificent centrepiece. Under the Prince's influence it
was very Italianate in design and he insisted that four dogs including Eos
should feature in it. Another centrepiece, the Alhambra Fountain, (4 ft 4 ins
high) was commissioned by Prince Albert after the Great Exhibition. Its Moorish
designs are based on the Alhambra in Spain.
Minton was lucky enough to show the Queen around the Great Exhibition. Of
course, he took her to see the Minton display which unsurprisingly led to the
Queen commissioning a number of pieces. We were shown a picture of one called
The Four Seasons which is over 2 ft high. It was also fashionable in Germany to
have horn furniture made from the horns of animals. During a visit to Gotha to
see the Prince's brother, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the Duke presented a
sofa made by stag horns to his brother. A couple of years later the Prince had
some chairs made to match.
The Prince played a major part in the design and organisation of the Great
Exhibition in 1851. We saw a picture of a water colour by Lami showing the
Queen opening the Exhibition. In the Exhibition were a number of tents, one of
them being for an Indian display. We saw a water colour by Joseph Nash showing
an ivory throne that had been presented to the Queen by the Maharaja of
Travencore. The throne was used in the first official picture of the Queen as
Empress of India in 1876.
We saw a number of pictures of the Queen's children before turning to a
short review of pictures relating to royal residences. The first was Balmoral
Castle. The Queen and Prince Albert rented the original castle in 1848 and
bought the freehold in 1851. They demolished it in 1853 and what we see today
is the rebuilt castle according to the design which was heavily influenced by
the Prince. It was completed in 1856 and we were shown some pictures of the
interior. The next residence was Osborne House. In 1843 the royal couple
decided that they did not like the lack of privacy in the Brighton Pavilion, the
former home of George IV. So, they sold it and bought Osborne House on the Isle
of Wight. That house too was demolished and Prince Albert designed the building
as we see it today. We were shown pictures of some of the rooms including
Prince Albert's study. The Queen and the Prince were responsible for
alterations to Buckingham Palace including the addition of the balcony in the
front. We saw a picture of the altered front with soldiers who had returned
from the Crimean War being greeted by the Queen.
display ended with pictures of some photographs. We were told that photography
was invented in 1839 with the first royal photograph being taken of the Prince
in 1842. An important photograph of a meeting of Chartists on Kennington Common
had subsequently been coloured. The royal children were photographed by Roger
Fenton who also brought back a number of photographs from the Crimean War at the
instigation of the Prince.
The Queen kept Prince Albert's bedroom exactly as it was when he died
in 1861 for the next forty years. After his death the Albert Memorial was built
;using funds from the public, which were so over-subscribed that the balance was
enough for the construction of the Albert Hall.
Oliver Everett chats with the Chairman and other members
after his entertaining and informative lecture