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Victoria & Albert: Art & Love Symposium

Queen Victoria at her coronation, wearing robes of state

Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Queen Victoria, 1859, RCIN 405131 ©

The essays included in this e-publication focus on Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s enthusiastic patronage of the arts. They originated in two Study Days, organised by Royal Collection Trust and the National Gallery, which took place at the National Gallery on 5 and 6 June 2010.

For this event, 17 speakers came together from England, Scotland, Germany and France to present papers on different aspects of the royal couple’s shared and sustained interest in the arts. The Study Days took up themes explored in the concurrent exhibition Victoria & Albert: Art & Love at The Queen’s Gallery, from 19 March to 5 December 2010.

Given the positive response to the Study Days, it was decided to make the talks available more widely, permanently and conveniently. That decision led to the current collaboration between Royal Collection Trust and the National Gallery to produce papers from the Study Days online, supplemented by relevant footnotes, bibliographies and images. 

Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Prince Albert, The Prince Consort, 1859, RCIN 405130 ©

These essays make clear the great extent of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s patronage of the arts, a shared passion that lasted throughout their marriage. Strikingly, their collecting covered nearly every form of fine and decorative art as well as music and the theatre. It encompassed all periods and had an international reach. The royal couple keenly pursued their interest in the arts, often visiting painters and sculptors in their studios; on occasion they even offered advice about how to improve the art work they saw. They also diligently set about cataloguing, cleaning and displaying their art collections – certainly unusual occupations for any monarch and their consort! Although keen to acquire unique works of art Victoria and Albert were perfectly happy to allow copies and reproductions into their collection, an indication of their interest in the possibilities for mass reproduction afforded by new mechanical techniques. What the following essays also reveal is that their tastes were quite different: while Queen Victoria particularly enjoyed images of her family and commemoration of events important to her for sentimental reasons, Prince Albert had idiosyncratic tastes, notably in his pioneering interest in collecting early Italian and German art.

Queen Victoria and especially Prince Albert had a genuine love for, knowledge of and commitment to the arts. Last year was the 150th anniversary of the death of Prince Albert and it is hoped that this e-publication will be a fitting tribute to a remarkable man who did so much for the arts in his adopted country, even in the face of misunderstanding and opposition during his own lifetime.

Susanna Avery-Quash
June 2012