Royal row and mystery crown in Queen's gallery show

Thu Mar 15, 2012 12:28pm EDT
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By Ian MacKenzie

Edinburgh (Reuters) - A miniature at the centre of a royal row between Queen Victoria and an Edinburgh artist and a mystery gold crown are among 100 treasures from Britain's royal palaces displayed at a new exhibition in Edinburgh marking Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee.

The exhibition has brought together 100 treasures in a priceless display of art and artifacts dating back to ancient Rome in the Queen's Gallery at Holyrood Palace which opens to the public on Friday. It runs to November 4, after which it moves to London.

Paintings range from works by Hans Holbein, Franz Hals and William Hogarth, through Sir Anthony van Dyck, Annibale Carracci and Rembrandt to Rubens, Claude Poussin and Canaletto, Scottish painter Sir David Wilkie and on to the 20th century with Peter Blake's 1977 watercolor of "Puck" and a 1997 self-portrait etching by Lucian Freud.

A display of draughtsmanship from the Italian Renaissance includes drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.

Also in the art display is a miniature of Queen Victoria's fourth child and second son, Prince Alfred, painted by local artist Kenneth Macleay when the prince attended Edinburgh University for some months in 1863-64 and lived at Holyrood, the Queen's Edinburgh residence.

Exhibition curator Deborah Clarke said Macleay had first painted Alfred with what he considered a suitable white cravat. "No, no, no!" Victoria wanted a black tie. The argument went back and forth, "but Victoria certainly won that victory," Clarke chuckled.

She said a Roman portrait of Emperor Claudius (AD 43-5) was the finest ancient cameo in the royal collection.

The origins of a gold crown from South America, a gift to Victoria from the president of Ecuador in 1862, remains elusive, although experts believe it was made by goldsmiths of the Canari people in southern Ecuador.   Continued...