Only until Sunday 28 April 2019 the exhibition “Russia, Royalty & The Romanovs” can be visited at the Queen’s Gallery of the Buckingham Palace in London. If you happen to be in London during these last week, don’t hesitate and pay a visit. In case you don’t manage: the exhibition will also be shown at the Queen’s Gallery of the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh from 21 June to 3 November 2019.
The Royal Collection Trust describes the exhibition as “The exhibition tells the story of the familial, political, diplomatic and artistic associations between Britain and Russia and their royal families from the late 17th century through to Russia’s last emperor Nicholas II and beyond. The unique relationship between the two countries is explored through portraits, sculpture, photographs and archival documents. Many of the works of art were commissioned as diplomatic gifts, others as intimate personal mementos, including miniature masterpieces by Fabergé.”
It is also described as: “Through war, alliance and dynastic marriage the relationships between Britain and Russia and their royal families are explored from Peter the Great’s visit to London in 1698 through to Nicholas II. Portraits, sculpture, photographs, archival documents and miniature masterpieces by Fabergé illustrate historic events and family meetings between the rulers of the two nations. Many of the rich and varied works of art on display are unique – some commissioned as grand diplomatic gifts, others as intimate personal mementos between the royal family and the Romanovs, and they bring to life the shared patronage of artists and craftsmen from both countries.”
Upon entering the exhibition rooms – there are two – you immediately notice lots of huge paintings. Starting just around the corner was a connection that I thought was interesting. Tsar Peter the Great of Russia visited King William III in 1698 and the painting was a gift. Next to the portrait by the way is a bust of William III himself. The first hall furthermore shows portraits of Catherine II and Queen Victoria with her eldest son in a Russian dress. It is worth having a look at all the paintings and read the signs, as there were some interesting ones depicting royals, nobles, families … and also to establish the reason why certain paintings are on display. In a small sideroom you can find a few orders and medals.
While the first room also contains a few vases and a dress that once belonged to Princess Charlotte of Wales, the second room also shows some furniture, letters, photos and not to forget three imperial Fabergé eggs. Not forgotten of course is the wedding of Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, with Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. But there also is a painting of the wedding of Tsar Nicholas II and Princess Alix of Hessen-Darmstadt, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. I was quite pleased to see the well-known family portrait of the family of King Christian IX of Denmark by Laurits Regner Tuxen, that includes members of the British and Russian royal families on the occasion of Queen Louise’s 65th birthday.
It was a pity that I visited when it was rather crowded, at 11am on a Thursday morning! I heard from a friend who visited several times, that that is not always the case. There was a whole schoolclass listening rather well to everything that was told to them. The audio guide seemed to be interesting enough, but I usually forget to listen to it. In the side hall at the entrance of the exhibition there is a room with a “throne” and some regnal clothing so you can have your own royal photo made. Most items were unfortunately a bit small for adults. On the wall there is a bit of information about Russia and even a quick family tree, showing some royal houses and their descendance from Queen Victoria. In the shop of the Gallery you can buy a few souvenirs, including a lovely exhibition catalogue.
If you are interested, at the Queen’s Gallery in London currently also the exhibition “Roger Fenton’s Photographs of the Crimea” is on display. Also this exhibition is open until 28 April. Even if you’re only interested in royalty, a quick glance would be a good idea, as there is an early picture of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on display, as well as a painting of the royal family meeting a group of injured Grenadier Guards at Buckingham Palace in 1855. The photographs from 1853-1855 have been in the royal collection since 1855 and were probably aquired by Victoria and Albert for their son the Prince of Wales, while some other photos were bought by other members of the royal family.