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Saturday, 3 September 2011

Royal Patronage of the Arts

In the guidebook to Frogmore House and the Royal Mausoleum, there is a photograph of a fan designed and painted by Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, Vicky, and presented to her mother in 1856. Alas, I cannot scan or post the photograph, and a description will not do it justice. The detail of flowers, an angel and a classical figure are so exquisite that it is difficult to believe that this was not created by a professional artist with many years of experience but by a sixteen year old girl (and it certainly puts many modern works of so-called art to shame!).
Although Vicky continued to paint throughout her life, it is not easy to find copies of her work and this is surely a great loss to the art world.

Many members of Queen Victoria’s family were gifted artists. Members of the Royal Academy said that Prince Albert, some of whose painting hang on the walls of Osborne House, could have been a professional artist had he not been a prince (and, incidentally, the composer Mendelsohn said he could have been a successful composer);

Vicky’s sister, Princess Louise, was an equally accomplished sculptor who created this statue of Queen Victoria, which stands in Kensington Gardens; and Queen Victoria herself was skilled in watercolours and oils as her painting of Prince Albert shows.



Artistic and musical themselves, Queen Victoria’s family – like many other royal families of Europe – were also great patrons of the arts and they were aware that their patronage was not simply a matter of personal gratification but that they were preserving some of the greatest works of art for the nation. The much-maligned Grand Duke Serge of Russia, husband of Grand Duchess Elizabeth, was renowned for his art collections and he made it clear that he wished to ensure that these treasures were being kept for Russia, not for his own pleasure (though he undoubtedly took pleasure in them, too). Queen Victoria, despite her initial reluctance to be seen on photographs,was also an early patron of photography as this article shows.

Queen Victoria and Photography

Kaiser Wilhelm – an enthusiastic archaeologist – was also eager to continue in the tradition of Frederick the Great in cultivating the art, poetry and literature of his country.

Another interesting article shows the importance of royal patronage for French artists and how their careers suffered during and after the revolution.

French Royal Patronage

It often seems to me that it is possible to judge the state of civilisation in a nation not only by the way it treats its animals but also by its contribution to art, literature and music and, alongside their many other contributions to society, I think the role of royalties in patronising the arts cannot be underestimated.

2 comments:

Matterhorn said...

Queen Elisabeth of Belgium also loved the arts, sculpture and music (qualities she had inherited from her Wittelsbach father) and she started the famous Queen Elisabeth Musical Competition:

http://crossoflaeken.blogspot.com/2009/06/queen-elisabeth-musical-competition.html

Her patronage of the arts seems to me to have been a good complement to her medical interests- healing the soul as well as the body.

Christina said...

Thank you, Matterhorn, for your comment and the link to your interesting and lovely post! Yes, indeed, healing the soul as well as the body...what a wonderful gift!!