Buckingham Palace art collection to go on display in a public gallery

Buckingham Palace artwork including Her Majesty’s ‘favourite piece’ are moved from the State Rooms to the Queen’s Gallery to protect them from damage as the £369m renovations continue

  • Stunning masters at Buckingham Palace to be exhibited together for first time
  • The 65 old paintings from the Royal Collection include Dutch and Italian works
  • They will go on display later this year to avoid the Palace’s £369m renovations

An exhibition of some of the Queen’s most treasured paintings – which usually hang in the state rooms at Buckingham Palace – is to go on display later this year for the first time.

The 65 stunning old masters by renowned painters like Vermeer and Canaletto are the highlights of the Royal Collection and even include a piece said to be Her Majesty’s favourite – Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and his Wife (1633).

They are being moved to the Queen’s Gallery for a year-long display because the collection’s current home is about to undergo reservicing work as part of Buckingham Palace’s £369million refurbishment.

The works are usually only admired by reception guests and the palace’s annual summer visitors.  

An exhibition of some of the Queen’s most treasured paintings – which usually hang in the state rooms at Buckingham Palace – is to go on display later this year for the first time. Pictured: Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and his Wife (1633)

The 65 stunning old masters by renowned painters like Vermeer and Canaletto are the highlights of the Royal Collection and even include a piece said to be Her Majesty’s (pictured in May 2019) favourite – Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and his Wife (1633)

When the exhibition opens in December guests will be encouraged to examine the techniques of the painters who were masters at the use of light, pigment, brush strokes and artistic devices to create emotion and realism.

The Royal Collection Trust said about the exhibition: ‘In Rubens’ self-portrait, 1623, thinly applied pigment brilliantly conveys the translucent quality of flesh, and blue and red highlights help create the impression of three dimensions.

The Queen’s ‘favourite’ painting: Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and his Wife

The Shipbuilder and his Wife depicts Jan Rijcksen and his partner Griet Jans. He was a shareholder in the Dutch East India Company and from 1620 their master shipbuilder.

This work belongs to a time when Dutch painter Rembrandt was most successful and fashionable as a portrait painter.

His art was also said to be at its most naturalistic, especially in the depiction of textures and surfaces. 

The work is reportedly rumoured to be a favourite of the Queen’s.

Source: Royal Collection Trust  

‘The furrowed brows, weather-beaten cheeks and wrinkled skin of Griet Jans and Jan Rijcksen in Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and his Wife, 1633, appear to have been sculpted out of paint, vein by vein.’

Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and his Wife is thought to be the Queen’s favourite, according to the Guardian.

The exhibition will also include one of the only 35 Vermeer paintings in the world – The Music Lesson. 

The Royal Collection Trust, a charity responsible for the care of the Royal Collection, said about the Vermeer work which will be exhibited: ‘In The Music Lesson, early 1660s, the impression of an ‘encountered’ scene belies Johannes Vermeer’s carefully constructed composition.’

It goes on to say: ‘The rowers heaving their oars in Canaletto’s The Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day, c.1733–4, transport the viewer to the lively festival celebrating Venice’s marriage to the sea.’

The picture gallery is being reserviced as part of a 10-year programme of work to overhaul the palace’s essential services and key infrastructure, including lead pipes and ageing electrical wiring and boilers, costing more than £350million.

The bill for the refurbishment will be met by taxpayers via the Sovereign Grant – the annual fee paid by the Government to the monarch – with a third of the cash set aside for maintaining Royal palaces. 

The project involves ten miles of water pipes, 6,500 plug sockets, 500 pieces of sanitary ware (toilet, basins and the like) and 20 miles of skirting board being replaced after experts warned there was ‘serious risk’ of fire and water damage to the palace and the priceless works of art it contains due to palace’s perilous state of repair. 

The exhibition will also include one of the only 35 Vermeer paintings in the world – The Music Lesson (pictured)

The paintings are being moved to the Queen’s Gallery for a year-long display because their current home is about to undergo reservicing work as part of Buckingham Palace’s (pictured) £369million refurbishment

In with the new! What work needs doing to protect the Palace? 

The Reservicing Programme will replace: 

  • 100 miles of electrical cabling. 
  • 6500 electrical sockets. 
  • 5000 light fittings. 
  • 330 distribution boards (fuse boxes). 
  • 20 miles heating pipework. 
  • 10 miles hot and cold water pipework.
  • 2500 radiators. 
  • 500 pieces of sanitary ware. 
  • 20 miles of skirting board. 
  • 30,000m² floorboards taken up, equivalent to 3.5 football pitches 

The Queen has not had to move out while the work is completed, but she has had to change bedrooms and is said to be ‘fully supportive’ of the changes.

It is estimated that the benefits of the upgrade, including longer summer opening hours, more private tours and savings due to the improvements, could be around £3.4million each year.

It is also forecast that the work, taken wing by wing, beginning with the front of the London landmark after essential works are completed in the first two years, will reduce the palace’s carbon footprint by 40 per cent in the future.

The Queen spends around a third of the year hosting garden parties, receptions, investitures and other events at her official home.

The work needed reflects the age of the building, which was first used as a royal palace by Queen Victoria and has not been decorated since 1952, the year the Queen ascended the throne.

Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace will be accompanied by a display charting the evolution of the palace’s picture gallery after Buckingham House was acquired by George III and Queen Charlotte in 1762.

Their picture arrangements, a mix of Dutch, Flemish and Italian works, continue to influence artworks in the picture gallery to this day.

Thirty-four of the paintings in the exhibition were acquired by their son, George IV, who commissioned the architect John Nash to transform Buckingham House into the principal royal palace in the 1820s. 

The works are usually only admired by reception guests and the palace’s annual summer visitors. Pictured: Claude Lorrain’s Harbour Scene at Sunset (1643) which is included in the collection

When the exhibition opens in December guests will be encouraged to examine the techniques of the painters who were masters at the use of artistic devices to create emotion and realism. Pictured: Canaletto’s The Bacino Di San Marco on Ascension Day (1733-34)

Buckingham Palace restoration: Who’s footing the £369million bill?

The works will cost the taxpayer millions as the total bill is expected to reach £369million.

The Sovereign Grant, which comes from general taxation, will be hiked up during the renovation period to cover the costs.

And while there has been complaint about the taxpayers footing the bill, the palace will continue to operate as usual, generating millions for the economy through tourism and events. 

The Queen currently gets an amount which is equivalent to 15 per cent of the profits from the Crown Estate, but this will increase to 25 per cent.  

Buckingham Palace, originally Buckingham House, was built in 1703 and has been extended out ever since.

But many of the wires and inner workings which keep it functioning are becoming old and in need of replacement – hence the huge project. 

The master of the Queen’s household overseeing the £369 million refurbishment of Buckingham Palace has vowed to stay within budget and time on the gigantic project.

Part of Nash’s scheme was the creation of the picture gallery to show off George IV’s collection of paintings.

During Queen Victoria’s reign, the picture gallery was opened to the public for the first time, when the royal family was not in residence, and a catalogue of the paintings was sold.

Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace will be staged at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, from December 4 to January 2022.

Rembrandt’s painting The Shipbuilder and his Wife is dusted at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace

Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace will be accompanied by a display charting the evolution of the palace’s picture gallery after Buckingham House was acquired by George III and Queen Charlotte in 1762. Pictured: Lorenzo Lotto’s Andrea Odoni which is included in the collection

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