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Press release

Treasures from The Queen's Palaces

Release date: Friday, 23 December 2011


The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse
16 March - 4 November 2012

An exhibition of spectacular treasures from the Royal Collection will go on display at The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse to celebrate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.  Treasures from The Queen’s Palaces reflects the tastes of monarchs and other members of the royal family who have shaped one of the world’s great art collections.  The selection of 100 outstanding works has been made across the entire breadth of the Royal Collection, from nine royal residences and more than five centuries of collecting, and includes paintings, drawings, miniatures, watercolours, manuscripts, furniture, sculpture, ceramics and jewellery.  Most items will be shown in Scotland for the first time.

The selection of paintings includes examples by great masters of the art of portraiture, among them Frans Hals and William Hogarth.  The melancholy double portrait of Thomas Killigrew and William, Lord Crofts (1638) by Sir Anthony van Dyck, court painter to Charles I, is shown alongside one of the most innovative portraits of the Renaissance, Lorenzo Lotto’s Andrea Odoni (1527) and Annibale Carracci’s dynamic Head of a Man in Profile (1588-95).  Among the most celebrated portraits in the Royal Collection, Rembrandt’s Agatha Bas (1641) was bought by the most prolific collector in British royal history, George IV, when Prince Regent.  A number of other paintings acquired during George IV’s reign are in the exhibition, including The Penny Wedding (1818) by the Scottish painter Sir David Wilkie.  Among more recent acquisitions is Claude Monet’s Study of rocks, the Creuse: ‘Le Bloc’ (1889), purchased by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in 1945.

The dazzling display of draughtsmanship from the 15th century to the present day includes works by the towering figures of the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.  There are studies of the human form, of landscape and the natural world by Rubens, Claude, Poussin and Canaletto.  Some of the most powerful images in the exhibition were created by artists who enjoyed a close association with their royal patrons.  Among these are Hans Holbein’s penetrating portraits of John More the Younger (c.1526-7) and Anne Cresacre (c.1527), son and daughter-in-law of Sir Thomas More, Henry VIII’s ill-fated Lord Chancellor.  Fine manuscripts and books include the Mainz Psalter (1457), a milestone in the early history of printing, and the 15th-century Sobieski Book of Hours (c.1420-25), one of the great treasures of the Royal Library.

Furniture and the decorative arts played an important role in the creation of grand interiors that for centuries have formed the backdrop to Monarchy.  Among the display of silver and gold, much of it still in use today, are two superb Renaissance pieces, the Nautilus Cup (c.1600) and The Hutton Cup (1589-90), thought to have been given by Elizabeth I to her goddaughter Elizabeth Bowes in 1570 and acquired by Her Majesty The Queen in 1957.  The Manchester Service, an outstanding example of Sèvres porcelain, originally formed part of the diplomatic gifts given by Louis XVI to the Duke of Manchester in recognition of his negotiation of the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the American War of Independence.  From a more domestic setting is a pair of Highlander candelabra designed by Sir Edwin Landseer and made by Herbert Minton & Co. for Queen Victoria’s Drawing Room at Balmoral in Scotland.

Successive generations of the Royal Family have shaped the royal collection of works by Carl Fabergé, the great jeweller and goldsmith of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today the collection is unparalleled in size, range and quality.  Two Easter Eggs made for the Russian Imperial family are among the 20 exquisite pieces by Fabergé in the exhibition.

The tradition of magnificent display in personal jewellery is an integral part of royal history, and the Royal Collection holds a number of outstanding gems and jewels.  They include two important early cameos, a head of Zeus (AD 1st-2nd centuries), one of the best surviving Hellenistic examples, and a Roman portrait of the Emperor Claudius (AD 43-5), the finest ancient cameo in the Royal Collection.  Pieces of historic jewellery with strong personal associations include a gold locket encrusted with rubies and diamonds containing a lock of Charles I’s hair (c.1620); a pendant said to have been owned by Mary, Queen of Scots, and a gold mermaid pendant that belonged to Queen Victoria.  Among other magnificent examples of craftsmanship are an Inca gold crown (1460-1530) and the emerald belt of Maharaja Sher Singh (c.1840).

The exhibition continues the story of the Royal Collection into the present reign.  Notable additions to the Collection include the watercolour Puck (1977) by British Pop artist Peter Blake, presented to Her Majesty The Queen by the Royal Academy of Arts on the occasion of her Silver Jubilee, and Lucian Freud’s etching, Self-portrait (1997), a gift from the artist. 

Tickets and visitor information: or 0131 556 5100.

For further information and photographs, please contact the Royal Collection Press Office, +44 (0)20 7839 1377, [email protected]. A selection of images is also available from

Admission to The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse is managed by the Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity in England and Wales (1016972) and in Scotland (SCO39772).