Queen Victoria emerges as the great "image maker"

Tue Mar 31, 2009 12:16pm EDT
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By Ian MacKenzie

EDINBURGH (Reuters Life!) - Two paintings of Queen Victoria by Edwin Landseer in an Edinburgh show from the royal collection show the 19th century monarch's talent as one of the great "image makers" of British royalty.

"The Conversation Piece: scenes of fashionable life" on show at the Queen's Gallery at Holyrood Palace shows the informal side of royal and upper class family life and entertainment.

The show comprises 36 works by a range of European and English artists heavily influenced by the great Dutch and Flemish technical mastery of fine detail and texture.

Desmond Shaw-Taylor, the Surveyor of the Queen's Paintings, said Landseer (1803-73) superbly mastered the "Nederlandisch" technique in his portrayal of Queen Victoria, sketching pencil in hand with her young family at Loch Lagan in the Scottish highlands, and with her husband Prince Albert -- just back from a day's shooting -- and the Princess Royal at Windsor Castle.

Scenes such as these depicting a wholesome, loving, normal family were a form of propaganda circulated to the public through prints and etchings to emphasize respectability of the queen's family life.

Shaw-Taylor avoided the term "propagandist," but he said Victoria was undoubtedly one of the great "image-makers" the royal family had produced.

He said this exhibition had started with a desire to show off the works of the German neoclassical artist Johan Zoffany (1733/4-1810), whose skill in producing miniature portraits and copies of other masterpieces within a single overall work is amazing.

"Our exhibitions are always from within the royal collection, so you have to begin by looking for a group of works that must at some time be shown...and in this case it's the Zoffany group," Shaw-Taylor told Reuters at a preview to the show which runs to September 20.   Continued...

<p>Sir Edwin Landseer's 'Windsor Castle in Modern Times' (1840-43) is seen in this undated handout image. REUTERS/The Royal Collection/2009 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II/Handout</p>