The Queen’s Gallery at the Palace of Holyroodhouse is to stage its biggest ever show next month, with more than 140 items on display picked from nine Royal residences to mark the Queen’s Jubilee and the gallery’s 10th anniversary.
THE Edinburgh gallery will show gems and jewellery alongside paintings and drawings for the first time. Highlights range from a celebrated Rembrandt portrait, unseen in Scotland for more than 60 years, a pendant thought to have been worn by Mary Queen of Scots, and works by Holbein.
Other major artworks, the cream of the Royal Collection, range from works by Monet and da Vinci to Scottish work by Sir Edwin Landseer and David Wilkie. The exhibition is designed “to show the real treasures, and richness, and diversity of the Royal Collection”, said Holyroodhouse curator Elizabeth Clarke, who has worked on the selection for about two years.
“It will also tell a little bit about the way it has been built up in the last 500 years.”
Rembrandt’s 1641 portrait of Agatha Bas was bought by King George IV, a key royal collector. It normally hangs in the picture gallery at Buckingham Palace.
“Agatha Bas and her husband lived in the same street as Rembrandt,” said Ms Clarke.
“He knew her and painted her. It has this wonderful concentrated view of the figure, her face and her costume, but she is portrayed leaning on the frame, almost as if she is leaning out of the picture towards the view. She holds a beautifully detailed fan which seems to rest on the edge of the frame.”
The exhibition, “Treasures from the Queen’s Palaces” runs for eight months from 16 March and is expected to be the biggest draw at the gallery since its show of Fabergé eggs drew 92,000 visitors in 2003. Timed tickets will be used if necessary on peak days.
Two Fabergé eggs, typically made for the Russian Czars and their families, are part of this show. One, created from platinum with cut jewels in 1914, includes a “surprise”, a tiny panel painted with the profile portraits of the five children of Czar Nicholas and Alexandria, murdered together with their parents in 1918.
The exhibition includes two porcelain candelabra from a set made for the drawing room at Balmoral by Sir Edwin Landseer. A pendant, with rubies, emeralds, pearls, two tiny skulls, and an enamelled snake twisted round a tree, dates from the 16th century and is said to have been worn by Mary Queen of Scots.
“We have never had such a mixture of things before, and such a wide range of items in one exhibition,” said Ms Clarke. “It’s across the board of the royal collection, paintings, drawing, jewellery, miniatures, silver, ceramics, Faberge, Indian works of art and armour, furniture, and sculpture.”