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The Best of the Buckingham Palace Art Collection Goes Public

Leah Fallon

Sixty-five Buckingham Palace paintings to be displayed in the Queen’s Royal Gallery for 1 year

Art critics and aficionados are looking forward to a rare, up-close look at work from Titian, Rembrandt and Canaletto.  

Starting December 4, the public can admire and interpret 65 paintings from the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace. For the first time, this exhibition from Dutch, Flemish and Italian artists will be on display in the Queen’s Royal Gallery. The exhibit will be on display until January 2022. 

The move is a result of a 10-year renovation project at Buckingham Palace. The project involves updating the boilers, electrical wiring and pipes. The art collection, usually on display in the Picture Gallery, is generally open by invitation only or during the summer opening tour of Buckingham Palace in London.

But it’s now open to anyone who’d like to take a peek. The public has a little over a year to experience these rare pieces in person.

Even though these paintings have been an integral part of Buckingham Palace for centuries, this exhibition is significant. The collection is one of the last fully intact European art collections. Curating the paintings in the Queen’s Gallery gives these historical works of art the spotlight that they deserve. The careful lighting and curation is designed to highlight the artist’s use of color, light and texture. Visitors can take the time they need to fully appreciate the intentions that render these artists some of the most significant of all time.

So instead of seeing these masterpieces as part of the tour of Buckingham Palace, they are the headliners — the main event. 

Prince Charles says of the collection, “The joy of art, learning new things, exploring magnificent buildings are all at the heart of what the Royal Collection Trust is about.”

What to expect in the Buckingham Palace collection

Here are a few highlights of what you can expect to see in the Queen’s Royal Gallery.

Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and his Wife (1560/2-1637)

Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and his Wife (1560/2-1637)

This Rembrandt painting depicts Dutch shipbuilders and husband and wife Jan Rijcksen and Griet Jans. It is a rare depiction of a man and his wife in the same painting. There appears to be some urgency, from the expression on the wife’s face, and her hand on the door knob as she bursts through the door to possibly relay a message. This piece was from Rembrant’s most successful time as portrait painter.

Learn more about Rembrandt and his work here.

Canaletto’s The Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day (1733-1734) 

Canaletto’s The Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day (1733-1734)

This piece is part of a pair. It depicts a view of the Grand Canal and the return of the Bucintoro, a vessel used annually for the Wedding of the Sea, held on Ascension Day. This celebration commemorated a war fleet that sailed in the year 1000, to show Venetian power along the Istrian coast. Experts believe this depiction of the Bucintoro was the last after the vessel was destroyed by Napoleon’s Army in 1797.

Learn more about Canaletto and the painting here.

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Titian’s Portrait of Jacopo Sannazaro (1514–1518)

Titian’s Portrait of Jacopo Sannazaro (1514–1518)

Known for his portraits, Titian painted his friends, writers, and noblemen early in his career. The style of the man’s hair and clothes, plus the hint of a mustache, indicates this portrait is of a man older than 24, from 1511 to 1520. His thoughtful stare, and his forefinger tucked in a book suggests he was poet and humanist Jacopo Sannazaro. 

Learn more about Titian and the painting here.

If you can’t make it to London in person, explore the collection virtually at rct.uk.

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