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Royal row and mystery crown in Queen’s gallery show


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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 today. It runs to November 4.

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 watercolour 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.

Another dramatic crown of gold studded with gems was owned by the last Moghul emperor Bahadur Shah II until he was deposed after the Indian mutiny in 1857. It was purchased by a British army Major Robert Taylor and offered to Victoria.

Other exhibits include historic furniture and jewellery, with 20 exquisite Faberge pieces, of which two eggs were made for the Russian imperial family.

Curator Deborah Clarke told reporters the exhibition had been put together over the past three years.

“The criteria was quality and excellence, I wanted some of the real treasures of the royal collection,” she said.

The value of items in the exhibition: “Priceless.”


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