It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, according to Desmond Shawe-Taylor, the Queen’s photo surveyor. A total of 65 works of art will make the short trip to the Queen’s Gallery for one year.They will be seen for the first time in a “gallery context… like you would see them in a picture gallery instead of a palace,” Shawe-Taylor said.
“You can see them reasonably well in the photo gallery but it’s still a palace… they’re double stacked in a lavish interior, most visitors would join in for the whole summer opening experience. A lot of people wouldn’t say, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to see Dutch genre painting.’ ”
From December, visitors will be able to admire one of the only 35 paintings by Vermeer in the world in close-up – The Music Lesson, a work much more sexually charged than it seems. The female subject plays the instrument but clearly looks at her tutor while doing so, while in the foreground is an aphrodisiac pitcher of wine.
There will also be two “extraordinary” Rembrandts including one that has long been considered the Queen’s favorite painting: The Shipbuilder and his Wife (1633).
“It’s an absolutely spectacular painting,” Shawe-Taylor said. “Not just because of the effect of light and realism… I mean that the flesh of the two elderly characters is rendered with extraordinary and palpable realism. But it’s also a very tender, almost comical portrayal of a husband and wife relationship, so it has a very modern feel to it.
Whether this is the Queen’s favorite is up to her to confirm. “It always says,” Shawe-Taylor said. “I don’t have more inside information than you do. ”
About half of the paintings were acquired by George IV, a monarch generally regarded as unintelligent who spent too much money, but also someone who had a good eye and a passion for art.
It was George who commissioned architect John Nash to transform Buckingham House into the main royal residence in the 1820s. Part of the project was the creation of a photo gallery to show the king’s paintings.
The 2021 show is a first. “In a way, we are forced to do it,” Shawe-Taylor said. “We have to get them out of the image gallery for the construction work.”
• The masterpieces of Buckingham Palace are at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, from December 4, 2020 to January 2022.