Seven queens star in Sotheby’s show of power, prestige and pearls | Art
Seven queens from these islands have been brought together in an extraordinary group this month to mark the unrivaled length of Elizabeth II’s reign.
Auction house Sotheby’s has collected portraits of every reigning queen since the Tudors except Lady Jane Grey, the teenager who claimed the throne for just nine days.
Some of these “power portraits” are better known than others over the five centuries, but leading the pack, eclipsed perhaps only by a selection of modern portraits of the current queen, is Elizabeth I. famous Portrait of Armada, attributed to George Gower, Sergeant Painter to the Queen from 1581, was loaned by Woburn Abbey, owner of the best preserved of the three versions of this work. One of the most recognizable images in British history, it shows Good Queen Bess in the dress she is thought to have worn to address her troops at Tilbury. His hand, placed on a globe, establishes his power and prestige.
For the curator of Sotheby’s Power & Image: Royal Portraiture & Iconography exhibition, Old Masters specialist Julian Gascoigne, the painting quickly became the cornerstone of the entire exhibition. “Not only has it become the defining image of Elizabeth I, the famous ‘virgin queen’, but it’s also one of the defining images of female power of any age,” he said this weekend. -end. “As it has been reproduced endlessly in many media, it can be difficult to accept the fact that you are face to face with reality.”
Gascoigne faced the challenge of finding rare portraits of all reigning queens held in private ownership. “As far as I know this has never been done in such a targeted way before, certainly not outside of major museum collections.”
A French school portrait of Mary Queen of Scots records her reign as Queen of Scots from 1542 to 1587. The unknown painter created this image of the mother of the future King James from a drawing now housed in the Musée Condé in Chantilly, France, possibly commissioned by Catherine de’ Medici, Marie’s mother-in-law, alongside a set of pencil sketches of her children.
Hans Eworth’s portrait of Queen Mary I, known as the Bloody Mary, was transported through Mayfair from the Society of Antiquaries, based at Burlington House, Piccadilly. Completed in 1554, at the time of Mary’s 38e Anniversary is the first serious study painted after her coronation in 1553 and it depicts the Queen in an extravagant dress of red and gold trimmed in fur and studded with diamonds. The greatness may have been an attempt to add weight to the image of a woman meant to inherit the kingdoms of England and Spain.
Mary II ascended the throne when parliament invited her to join her husband, Prince William of Orange, as joint sovereigns after the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Depicted at the birth of today’s constitutional monarchy, Jan van der Vaart’s portrait shows her wearing a velvet and ermine coat over a loose blue dress fastened with diamond brooches.
Sir Godfrey Kneller’s painting of Queen Anne shows her presenting the plans for Blenheim Palace to a figure representing “military merit”, possibly inspired by the Duke of Marlborough himself, the palace’s proud recipient. Anne became the first monarch of a united Britain following the Act of Union of 1707.
George Hayter’s portrait of a young Victoria was loaned to Sotheby’s from a private collection. This portrait, commissioned for Madame Tussauds in 1838, displays all the royal trappings in red velvet, along with the coronation robe and state crown, but depicts the time when the monarchy became a popular confection rather than a real power in the country. Victoria’s youth and humanity are showcased in an image, a copy of which the current Queen has in her own collection.
The show runs until June 15 in Sotheby’s Bond Street auction room, which is hosting a series of talks and accompanying performances.