The Royal Collection of the British Royal family is the largest private art collection in the world.
Spread among 13 occupied and historic royal residences in the United Kingdom, the collection is owned by Elizabeth II and overseen by the Royal Collection Trust. The Queen owns some of the collection in right of the Crown and some as a private individual. It is made up of over one million objects,including 7,000 paintings, over 150,000 works on paper, this including 30,000 watercolours and drawings, and about 450,000 photographs, as well as tapestries, furniture, ceramics, textiles, carriages, weapons, armour, jewellery, clocks, musical instruments, tableware, plants, manuscripts, books, and sculptures.
Elizabeth II is Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms.
The Royal Collection Trust is a British charity established in 1993 by Queen Elizabeth II under the chairmanship of Charles, Prince of Wales to manage the Royal Collection. It is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales, No. 2713536. It is a Registered Charity No. 1016972, Registered Office: York House, St James's Palace, London SW1A 1BQ.
The Crown is the state in all its aspects within the jurisprudence of the Commonwealth realms and their sub-divisions. Legally ill-defined, the term has different meanings depending on context. It is used to designate the monarch in either a personal capacity, as Head of the Commonwealth, or as the king or queen of his or her realms. It can also refer to the rule of law; however, in common parlance 'The Crown' refers to the functions of government and the civil service.
Some of the buildings which house the collection, like Hampton Court Palace, are open to the public and not lived in by the Royal Family, whilst others, like Windsor Castle and Kensington Palace, are both residences and open to the public. The Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace in London was built specially to exhibit pieces from the collection on a rotating basis. There is a similar art gallery next to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, and a Drawings Gallery at Windsor Castle. The Crown Jewels are on public display in the Jewel House at the Tower of London.
Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the borough of Richmond upon Thames, 12 miles south west and upstream of central London on the River Thames. Building of the palace began in 1515 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a favourite of King Henry VIII. In 1529, as Wolsey fell from favour, the cardinal gave the palace to the King to check his disgrace; Henry VIII later enlarged it. Along with St James's Palace, it is one of only two surviving palaces out of the many owned by King Henry VIII.
Windsor Castle is a royal residence at Windsor in the English county of Berkshire. It is notable for its long association with the English and later British royal family and for its architecture.
Kensington Palace is a royal residence set in Kensington Gardens, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, England. It has been a residence of the British Royal Family since the 17th century, and is currently the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.
About 3,000 objects are on loan to museums throughout the world, and many others are lent on a temporary basis to exhibitions.
Few items from before Henry VIII survive. The most important additions were made by Charles I, a passionate collector of Italian paintings and a major patron of Van Dyck and other Flemish artists. He purchased the bulk of the Gonzaga collection from the Duchy of Mantua. The entire Royal Collection, which included 1,500 paintings and 500 statues,was sold after Charles's execution in 1649. The 'Sale of the Late King's Goods' at Somerset House raised £185,000 for the English Republic. Other items were given away in lieu of payment to settle the king's debts. A number of pieces were recovered by Charles II after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, and they form the basis for the collection today. The Dutch Republic also presented Charles with the Dutch Gift of 28 paintings, 12 sculptures, and a selection of furniture. He went on to buy many paintings and other works.
Henry VIII was King of England from 1509 until his death. Henry was the second Tudor monarch, succeeding his father, Henry VII. Henry is best known for his six marriages, in particular his efforts to have his first marriage, to Catherine of Aragon, annulled. His disagreement with the Pope on the question of such an annulment led Henry to initiate the English Reformation, separating the Church of England from papal authority. He appointed himself the Supreme Head of the Church of England and dissolved convents and monasteries, for which he was excommunicated. Henry is also known as "the father of the Royal Navy"; he invested heavily in the Navy, increasing its size greatly from a few to more than 50 ships.
The Duchy of Mantua was a duchy in Lombardy, Northern Italy, subject to the Holy Roman Empire.
Somerset House is a large Neoclassical building situated on the south side of the Strand in central London, overlooking the River Thames, just east of Waterloo Bridge. The Georgian building, which was built on the site of a Tudor palace belonging to the Duke of Somerset, was designed by Sir William Chambers in 1776. It was further extended with Victorian wings to the east and west in 1831 and 1856 respectively. The East Wing is now part of the adjacent Strand campus of King's College London. Somerset House stood directly on the River Thames until the Victoria Embankment was built in the late 1860s.
George III was mainly responsible for forming the collection's outstanding holdings of Old Master drawings; large numbers of these, and many Venetian paintings including over 40 Canalettos, joined the collection when he bought the collection of Joseph "Consul Smith", which also included a large number of books.Many other drawings were bought from Alessandro Albani, cardinal and art dealer in Rome.
George III was King of Great Britain and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until the union of the two countries on 1 January 1801, after which he was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death in 1820. He was concurrently Duke and prince-elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg ("Hanover") in the Holy Roman Empire before becoming King of Hanover on 12 October 1814. He was the third British monarch of the House of Hanover, but unlike his two predecessors, he was born in Great Britain, spoke English as his first language, and never visited Hanover.
In art history, "Old Master" refers to any painter of skill who worked in Europe before about 1800, or a painting by such an artist. An "old master print" is an original print made by an artist in the same period. The term "old master drawing" is used in the same way.
Giovanni Antonio Canal, better known as Canaletto, was an Italian painter of city views or vedute, of Venice, Rome, and London. He also painted imaginary views, although the demarcation in his works between the real and the imaginary is never quite clearcut. He was further an important printmaker using the etching technique. In the period from 1746 to 1756 he worked in England where he painted many sights of London. He was highly successful in England, thanks to the British merchant and connoisseur Joseph Smith, whose large collection of Canaletto's works was sold to King George III in 1762.
George IV shared Charles I's enthusiasm for collecting, buying up large numbers of Dutch Golden Age paintings and their Flemish contemporaries. Like other English collectors, he took advantage of the great quantities of French decorative art on the London market after the French Revolution, and is mostly responsible for the collection's outstanding holdings of 18th-century French furniture and porcelain, especially Sèvres. He also bought much contemporary English silver, and many recent and contemporary English paintings.Queen Victoria and her husband Albert were keen collectors of contemporary and old master paintings.
Many objects have been given from the collection to museums, especially by George III and Victoria and Albert. In particular, the King's Library formed by George III with the assistance of his librarian Frederick Augusta Barnard, consisting of 65,000 printed books, was given to the British Museum, now the British Library, where they remain as a distinct collection. He also donated the "Old Royal Library" of some 2,000 manuscripts, which are still segregated as the Royal manuscripts. The core of this collection was the purchase by James I of the related collections of Humphrey Llwyd, Lord Lumley, and the Earl of Arundel. Prince Albert's will requested the donation of a number of mostly early paintings to the National Gallery, London, which Queen Victoria fulfilled.
Throughout the reign of Elizabeth II (1952–present), there have been significant additions to the collection through judicious purchases, bequests, and gifts from nation states and official bodies.Since 1952, approximately 2,500 works have been added to the Royal Collection. The Commonwealth is strongly represented in this manner: an example is 75 contemporary Canadian watercolours that entered the collection between 1985 and 2001 as a gift from the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour. Modern art acquired by Elizabeth II includes pieces by Sir Anish Kapoor and Andy Warhol.
In 1987 a new department of the Royal Household was established to oversee the Royal Collection, and it was financed by the commercial activities of Royal Collection Enterprises, a limited company. Before then, it was maintained using the monarch's official income paid by the Civil List. Since 1993 the collection has been funded by entrance fees to Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.
A computerised inventory of the collection was started in early 1991,and it was completed in December 1997. The full inventory is not available to the public, though catalogues of parts of the collection – especially paintings – have been published, and a searchable database on the Royal Collection website is increasingly comprehensive, with "265,302 items found" by early 2019.
About a third of the 7,000 paintings in the collection are on view or stored at buildings in London which fall under the remit of the Historic Royal Palaces agency: the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace, Banqueting House (Whitehall), and Kew Palace.The Jewel House and Martin Tower at the Tower of London also house the Crown Jewels. A rotating selection of art, furniture, jewellery, and other items considered to be of the highest quality is shown at the Queen's Gallery, a purpose-built exhibition centre near Buckingham Palace. Many objects are displayed in the palace itself, the state rooms of which are open to visitors for much of the year, as well as in Windsor Castle, Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, and Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Some works are on long-term or permanent loan to museums and other places; the most famous of these are the Raphael Cartoons, in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London since 1865.
The collection's holdings of Western fine art are among the largest and most important assemblages in existence, with works of the highest quality, and in many cases artists whose works cannot be fully understood without a study of the holdings contained within the Royal Collection. There are over 7,000 paintings, spread across the Royal residences and palaces. The collection does not claim to provide a comprehensive, chronological survey of Western fine art but it has been shaped by the individual tastes of kings, queens and their families over the last 500 years.
Numbering over 300 items, the Royal Collection holds one of the greatest and most important collections of French furniture ever assembled. The collection is noted for its encyclopedic range as well as counting the greatest cabinet-makers of the Ancien Régime.
The collection has a number of items of clothing, including those worn by members of the Royal family, especially female members, some going back to the early 19th century. These include ceremonial dress and several wedding dresses, including that of Queen Victoria (1940).There are also servant's livery uniforms, and a number of exotic pieces presented over the years, going back to a "war coat" of Tipu Sultan (d. 1799). In recent years these have featured more prominently in displays and exhibitions, and are popular with the public.
A collection of 277 cameos, intaglios, badges of insignia, snuffboxes and pieces of jewellery known as the Gems and Jewels are kept at Windsor Castle. Separate from Elizabeth II's jewels and the Crown Jewels, 24 pre-date the Renaissance and the rest were made in the 16th–19th centuries. In 1862, it was first shown publicly at the South Kensington Museum, now the Victoria and Albert Museum. Several objects were removed and others added in the second half of the Victorian period. An inventory of the collection was made in 1872, and a catalogue, Ancient and Modern Gems and Jewels in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, was published in 2008 by the Royal Collection Trust.
The Royal Collection is privately owned, although some of the works are displayed in areas of palaces and other royal residences open to visitors for the public to enjoy.Some of the collection is owned by the monarch personally, and everything else is described as being held in trust by the monarch in right of the Crown. It is understood that works of art acquired by monarchs up to the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 are heirlooms which fall into the latter category. Items the British royal family acquired later, including official gifts, can be added to that part of the collection by a monarch at his or her discretion. Ambiguity surrounds the status of objects that have come into the possession of Elizabeth II during her reign. The Royal Collection Trust has confirmed that all pieces left to the Queen by the Queen Mother, which include works by Monet, Nash, and Fabergé, belong to her personally. It has also been confirmed that she owns the Royal stamp collection, inherited from her father George VI, as a private individual.
Non-personal items are said to be inalienable as they can only be willed to the monarch's successor. The legal accuracy of this claim has never been substantiated in court.According to Cameron Cobbold, then Lord Chamberlain, speaking in 1971, minor items have occasionally been sold to help raise money for acquisitions, and duplicates of items are given away as presents within the Commonwealth. In 1995, Iain Sproat, then Secretary of State for National Heritage, told the House of Commons that selling objects was "entirely a matter for the Queen". In a 2000 television interview, the Duke of Edinburgh said that the Queen was "technically, perfectly at liberty to sell them".
Hypothetical questions have been asked in Parliament about what should happen to the collection if the UK ever becomes a republic.In other European countries, the art collections of deposed monarchies usually have been taken into state ownership or become part of other national collections held in trust for the public's enjoyment. Under the European Convention on Human Rights, incorporated into British law in 1998, the monarch may have to be compensated for the loss of any assets held in right of the Crown unless he or she agreed to surrender them voluntarily.
A registered charity, the Royal Collection Trust was set up in 1993 after the Windsor Castle fire with a mandate to conserve the works and enhance the public's appreciation and understanding of art.It employs around 500 staff and is one of the five departments of the Royal Household. Buildings do not come under its remit. In 2012, the team of curatorial staff numbered 29, and there were 32 conservationists. Income is raised by charging entrance fees to see the collection at various locations and selling books and merchandise to the public. The Trust is financially independent and receives no Government funding or public subsidy. A studio at Marlborough House is responsible for the conservation of furniture and decorative objects.
Buckingham Palace is the London residence and administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is often at the centre of state occasions and royal hospitality. It has been a focal point for the British people at times of national rejoicing and mourning.
Giacomo Francesco Zuccarelli RA, was an Italian artist of the late Baroque or Rococo period. He is considered to be the most important landscape painter to have emerged from his adopted city of Venice during the mid-eighteenth century, and his Arcadian views became popular throughout Europe and especially in England where he resided for two extended periods. His patronage extended to the nobility, and he often collaborated with other artists such as Antonio Visentini and Bernardo Bellotto. In 1768, Zuccarelli became a founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts, and upon his final return to Italy, he was elected president of the Venetian Academy. In addition to his rural landscapes which frequently incorporated religious and classical themes, Zuccarelli created devotional pieces and on occasion did portraiture. Beside paintings, his varied output included etchings, drawings, and designs for tapestries as well as a set of Old Testament playing cards.
The Italian-born Antonio Verrio was responsible for introducing Baroque mural painting into England and served the Crown over a thirty-year period.
St James's Palace is the most senior royal palace in the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, although no longer the principal residence of the monarch, it is the ceremonial meeting place of the Accession Council and the London residence of several minor members of the royal family.
Jean-Henri Riesener was the French royal ébéniste, working in Paris, whose work exemplified the early neoclassical "Louis XVI style".
The Wallace Collection is an art collection in London open to the public, housed at Hertford House in Manchester Square, the former townhouse of the Seymour family, Marquesses of Hertford. It comprises an extensive collection of fine and decorative arts from the 15th to the 19th centuries with important holdings of French 18th-century paintings, furniture, arms and armour, porcelain and Old Master paintings arranged into 30 galleries.
Pietra dura or pietre dure[ˈpjɛːtre ˈduːre], called parchin kari or parchinkari in the Indian Subcontinent, is a term for the inlay technique of using cut and fitted, highly polished colored stones to create images. It is considered a decorative art. The stonework, after the work is assembled loosely, is glued stone-by-stone to a substrate after having previously been "sliced and cut in different shape sections; and then assembled together so precisely that the contact between each section was practically invisible". Stability was achieved by grooving the undersides of the stones so that they interlocked, rather like a jigsaw puzzle, with everything held tautly in place by an encircling 'frame'. Many different colored stones, particularly marbles, were used, along with semiprecious, and even precious stones. It first appeared in Rome in the 16th century, reaching its full maturity in Florence. Pietra dura items are generally crafted on green, white or black marble base stones. Typically, the resulting panel is completely flat, but some examples where the image is in low relief were made, taking the work more into the area of hardstone carving.
Carlton House was a mansion in London, best known as the town residence of the Prince Regent for several decades from 1783. It faced the south side of Pall Mall, and its gardens abutted St. James's Park in the St James's district of London. The location of the house, now replaced by Carlton House Terrace, was a main reason for the creation of John Nash's ceremonial route from St James's to Regent's Park via Regent Street, Portland Place and Park Square: Lower Regent Street and Waterloo Place were originally laid out to form the approach to its front entrance.
On 20 November 1992, a fire broke out in Windsor Castle, the largest inhabited castle in the world and one of the official residences of Queen Elizabeth II. The castle suffered extensive damage in the fire and was fully repaired within the next few years at a cost of £36.5 million, in a project led by the conservation architects Donald Insall Associates. It led to the Queen paying tax on her income, and to Buckingham Palace, the Queen's other official residence, being opened to the public to help pay for the restoration work.
André-Charles Boulle, le joailler du meuble, is the most famous French cabinetmaker and the preeminent artist in the field of marquetry, also known as "Inlay". Boulle was "the most remarkable of all French cabinetmakers". He was commended to Louis XIV of France, the "Sun King", by Jean-Baptiste Colbert as being “the most skilled craftsman in his profession”. Over the centuries since his death, his name and that of his family has been given to the art he perfected, the inlay of tortoiseshell, brass and pewter into ebony. It is known as Boulle Work and the École Boulle, a college of fine arts and crafts and applied arts in Paris, today bears testimony to his enduring art, the Art of inlay.
The Director of the Royal Collection is head of the Royal Collection Department, a department of the Royal Household of the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. The department is responsible for the day-to-day management and upkeep of the art collection of the British Royal Family; held in trust for the nation and successive monarchs, it is one of the largest and most important art collections in the world. It contains over 7,000 paintings, 40,000 watercolours and drawings, about 150,000 old master prints, as well as historical photographs, tapestries, furniture, ceramics, books, and the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. The Director of the Royal Collection is also an ex-officio trustee of Historic Royal Palaces.
Martin Carlin was a Parisian ébéniste (cabinet-maker), born at Freiburg, who was received as Master Ebéniste at Paris on 30 July 1766. Renowned for his "graceful furniture mounted with Sevres porcelain", Carlin fed into the luxury market of eighteenth-century decorative arts where porcelain-fitted furniture was considered among "the most exquisite furnishings" within the transitional and neoclassical styles. Carlin's furniture was popular amongst the main great dealers, including Poirier, Daguerre, and Darnault, who sold his furniture to Marie Antoinette and many amongst the social elite class. He died 6 March 1785.
The Music Lesson, Woman Seated at a Virginal or A Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman by Johannes Vermeer is a painting of a young female pupil receiving a music lesson from a man. The man's mouth is slightly agape giving the impression that he is singing along with the music that the young girl is playing. This suggests that there is a relationship between the two figures and the idea of love and music being bridged together. This was a common theme among Netherlandish art in this time period. Vermeer uses linear perspective and his invention of the camera pictura to create the illusion of space and depth within the setting of the painted room. Vermeer consistently used the same objects within his paintings such as the draped rug, the white water jug, various instruments, tiled floor and windows that convey light and shadows. This is one of few paintings produced by Vermeer which were kept in his home until his death in 1675 when his family was forced to sell them. It became a part of the Royal Collection, and it is currently on display in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace in London.
Ince and Mayhew were a partnership of furniture designers, upholsterers and cabinetmakers, founded and run by William Ince (1737–1804)and John Mayhew (1736–1811) in London, from 1759 to 1803; Mayhew continued alone in business until 1809. Their premises were listed in London directories in Broad Street, Soho, 1763–83, and in Marshall Street, Carnaby Market, 1783–1809. The partnership's volume of engraved designs, The Universal System of Household Furniture, dedicated to the Duke of Marlborough, was issued in imitative rivalry with Thomas Chippendale; Ince, who was a subscriber to the first edition of Chippendale's Director, was chiefly responsible for the designs, while Mayhew contributed the greater part of the partnership's capital, kept the accounts, and was in closer contact with the firm's clientele among the nobility and gentry.
The artists of the Tudor court are the painters and limners engaged by the monarchs of England's Tudor dynasty and their courtiers between 1485 and 1603, from the reign of Henry VII to the death of Elizabeth I.
Hazarduari Palace, earlier known as the Bara Kothi, is located in the campus of Kila Nizamat in Murshidabad, in the Indian state of West Bengal. It was built in the nineteenth century by architect Duncan Macleod, under the reign of Nawab Nazim Humayun Jah of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa (1824–1838).
The Kimbolton Cabinet is an ornate wooden cabinet on a stand, designed by Robert Adam and completed in 1775. It is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Lignereux is a French company, founded in 1787, which produces objets d'art. Established in Paris and London, Lignereux plays a major role in decorative arts. Lignereux makes objects which are intended for art collectors. In 2015 Lignereux began to produce new precious objects, decorated by contemporary artists and craftspeople.
Martin Yeoman is an English painter and draughtsman who drew members of the British Royal Family. He was commissioned to draw the Queen's grandchildren and accompanied Charles, Prince of Wales, on overseas tours as tour artist. He is a member of Senior Faculty at the Royal Drawing School.
Louis XIV furniture was massive and lavishly covered with sculpture and ornament of gilded bronze in the earlier part of his personal reign (1660–1690). After about 1690, thanks in large part to the furniture designer André Charles Boulle, a more original and delicate style appeared. It was based on the use of marquetry, the inlay of piece of ebony and other rare woods, a technique first used in Florence in the 15th century, which was refined and developed by Boulle and others working for the King. Furniture was inlaid with thin plaques of ebony, copper, mother of pearl, and exotic woods of different colors in elaborate designs.
Some people know that this is perhaps the finest, and certainly what the royal palaces website proudly calls "the largest private collection of art in the world".
There is a computerised inventory of the Royal Collection which identifies assets held by the Queen as Sovereign and as a private individual.
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