Bronze Age gold treasures for Scottish display

An 18th-century Indian tiger's head in gold. Picture: Contributed
An 18th-century Indian tiger's head in gold. Picture: Contributed
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DOZENS of golden treasures from the Royal Family’s vast art collection are heading to Scotland for the first time for a major new exhibition.

Rarely-seen sacred and ceremonial pieces dating as far back as the early Bronze Age will be brought together for a public display at the Queen’s official residence north of the Border next year.

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The art gallery at Edinburgh’s Palace of Holyroodhouse will play host to the exhibition, which will feature at least 60 different items.

Due to open at the Queen’s Gallery in March, the exhibition – entitled simply “Gold” – will be an expanded version of a show that is due to open at Buckingham Palace next month.

Highlights include a gold Inca-era crown presented to Queen Victoria in 1862, a gold Bronze Age cup excavated along with a dagger in Cornwall in the mid-19th century, and a tiger’s head ornament presented to William IV by the East India Company in 1831.

The exhibition, which will explore how gold has been used to represent and reflect royal wealth and power around the world, will feature a host of exquisite paper, silk and wood items with gold decoration.

The Royal Collection said the show would feature items drawn from across its archives and explore the “distinctive qualities that make this rare and precious metal an enduring expression of the highest status, both earthly and divine”.

Also due to go on display are a lavishly-illustrated account of the 1821 coronation of George IV made entirely of gold, which bankrupted its author, John Whittaker who made six copies for the crowned heads of Europe with his £5,000 grant. A sumptuous cigarette case, made of three different colours of gold, was given to King Edward VII as a 40th wedding anniversary present by his sister-in-law, the Dowager Tsarina Maria Feodorovna of Russia, in 1903.

An engraved gold medallion of Elizabeth I, which was made by Simon van de Passe at the royal court in the early 17th century, is believed to be unique.

A star attraction is expected to be the finest Islamic manuscript in the Royal Collection, the Padshahnama, which was written on paper flecked with gold and features 44 illustrations depicting the Mughal imperial court in India. Presented to George III by the governor of India in 1797, it forms an official record of the first ten years of the reign of Shah-Jahan, fifth Mughal emperor and builder of the Taj Mahal.

The exhibition will also feature the original 1760 design by Scottish-Swedish architect Sir William Chambers for the gold state coach, which has been deployed for every coronation since that of George IV and cost £7,500 to make.

Kathryn Jones, curator of decorative arts at the Royal Collection, said: “Everything in the show has been acquired by the Royal Family at some point, going right back to the 17th century, but around half the exhibits going on show have not been on public display before show.

“When people visit our collections, one of the first things they want to see are the gold items, there is still a certain fascination about it.”

Gold is at the Palace of Holyroodhouse from March to July next year.