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'Gold' exhibition to open in Edinburgh

Release date: Monday, 16 February 2015

Gold tiger's head from the throne of Tipu Sultan

Gold tiger's head from the throne of Tipu Sultan Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015

An exhibition celebrating the beauty and symbolism of gold opens at The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse on 27 March.  Through over 60 items drawn from across the Royal Collection, from the Early Bronze Age to the 20th century, Gold explores the distinctive qualities that make this rare and precious metal an enduring expression of the highest status.

Over millennia and across diverse cultures, gold has been used to represent and reflect royal wealth and power.  Among the most striking examples in the exhibition are the Rillaton gold cup, from a Bronze Age burial around 1700 – 1500 BC, a gold crown from Ecuador that pre-dates the Inca invasion, and a tiger's head in gold and rock crystal from the throne of Tipu Sultan (1785–93), ruler of Mysore in India. 

Many of the sacred and ceremonial items associated with the coronations of British monarchs incorporate gold.  The exhibition includes a design from 1760 by Sir William Chambers and Giovanni Battista Cipriani for the Gold State Coach, then the most expensive coach ever made.  It has been used at every coronation since that of George IV in 1821.  Charles Robert Leslie's painting Queen Victoria Receiving the Sacrament at her Coronation, 28 June 1838  shows the Queen dressed in the shimmering Dalmatic Robe standing in a pool of golden sunlight.

Gold has been used to decorate every possible surface, from paper and silk to wood and leather.  The exhibition shows gold incorporated into lacquer on a pair of 18th-century Japanese bowls and applied over carved gesso on a table by James Moore, who created furniture for Queen Anne and George I.  Gold leaf and gold paint are used to decorate scenes on a Chinese-inspired fan which belonged to Queen Adelaide, consort of William IV.  

Among other highlights of the exhibition are Simon van de Passe's engraved gold portrait medallion of Elizabeth I, two landscapes by the 17th-century artist Pier Francesco Cittadini drawn in pen and ink on paper covered in gold leaf, and William Nicholson's still life, Gold Jug, 1937 – a study of the play of light on metallic surfaces.

Gold is at The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyoodhouse from 27 March - 26 July 2015.

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