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Birds have long been a source of artistic inspiration.

Prince Albert, Prince Consort, consort of Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom (1819-61)

A Long-Eared Owl Signed and dated 1836

RCIN 403996

Nursery Bedroom, Osborne House

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Long-eared owls, a species found throughout Europe, are recognised by the feathery tufts on their heads, which they raise when alarmed. At the age of just 17, before his marriage to Victoria, Prince Albert made an oil painting of a long-eared owl, its yellow eyes glowing out from the dark background. The young prince sensitively captures the different textures and colours of the bird’s plumage. It is unlikely that he had the chance to paint the owl from life – this species is particularly wary of humans – and may have worked from a print or natural history illustration. It was only in 1863, after Prince Albert’s death, that Queen Victoria acquired the painting.