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James Roberts (c. 1800-67)

The Drawing Room, Balmoral dated Sep 1857

Watercolour and bodycolour over pencil | 26.1 x 38.3 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 919477

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  • An interior view of the Drawing Room. The Billiard Room can be seen through the open door.

    Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone of the new castle at Balmoral, designed by William Smith of Aberdeen, on 28 September 1853. Two years later, when the building was finished and the interiors were almost complete, Lady Augusta Bruce, lady-in-waiting to the Duchess of Kent, looked in to inspect progress on the day of the arrival of the Queen and Prince Albert (7 September). In the Queen's apartments, she noted: 'The general woodwork is light coloured, maple and birch chiefly, with locks and hinges etc. silvered, and the effect is very good - besides there are beautiful things - Chandeliers of Parian; Highlanders, beautifully designed figures, holding the light, and which are placed in appropriate trophies - table ornaments in the same style, and loads of curiously devised and tasteful, as well as elaborately executed articles; the only want is a certain absence of harmony of the whole.' Later, after the fashionable Mount Street decorator and upholsterer Holland had been at work all day, she returned to find everything finished: 'the carpets are Royal Stuart Tartan and green Hunting Stuart, the curtains, the former lined with red, the same dress Stuart and a few chintz with a thistle pattern, the chairs and sofas in the drawing room are 'dress Stuart' poplin. All highly characteristic and appropriate, but not all equally flatteux to the eye'.

    Much of Holland's distinctive furnishings made for the 'dear Paradise' remains in situ*, although the Stuart tartan curtains have given way in the Drawing Room (and some other rooms) to Balmoral tartan, a grey and red pattern probably designed by the Queen and Prince c.1850. With the advent of heating, Prince Albert's insistence on hanging Landseer prints rather than oil paintings (which he thought might be injured by the climate) has been relaxed and most of the principal rooms now contain either oil paintings or watercolours.

    *The pedestal side cabinets are still in the Royal Collection as RCINs 12017.1, 12017.2, 13109.1, and 13109.2; the rectangular cabinets are RCINs 12121.1 and 12121.2; the round topped chairs are RCINs 12008.1 to 12008.6; the chairs with cartouche-shaped backs are RCIN 12100.1 to RCIN 12100.6.

    Signed, dated and inscribed Balmoral / Sept 1857 / Js Roberts

    Text adapted from Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010



    Provenance

    Commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1857, and mounted in her Souvenir Album; Roberts was paid £129 1s for eleven watercolours of Balmoral interiors, and £32 10s for expenses, on 20 January 1858

  • Medium and techniques

    Watercolour and bodycolour over pencil

    Measurements

    26.1 x 38.3 cm (sheet of paper)