Royal Academy to show parts of Charles I art collection dismantled by Cromwell

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Parts of the Royal Collection dismantled by Oliver Cromwell following the execution of Charles I are returning to Britain for a blockbuster show at the Royal Academy.

Just months after the monarch's death, Charles I's art collection, one of the most "extraordinary ever assembled", was offered for sale and dispersed across Europe.

Everything from tapestries to blankets were sold off for as little as six shillings from what had been an "unrivalled" collection of 1,500 paintings and 500 sculptures.

They ended up around Europe, and are now being lent to the Royal Academy from the Louvre in Paris and the Museo Nacional del Prado, Spain, as well as private collections.

Although many works were retrieved by Charles II during the Restoration, others remained dispersed.

Now around 150 of the most important works will be reunited for the first time since the 17th Century, at the Royal Academy of Arts, in the show Charles I: King And Collector, next year.

Around 90 works will be lent by the Queen, from the Royal Collection, for the show.

Meanwhile, at Buckingham Palace, curators are working on an exhibition on Charles II who, after ending more than a decade of Republican rule and making a triumphant return to London in 1660, acted to recover his father's art collection.

After 14 years in exile, he used the arts to reinforce his legitimacy and authority as a ruler.

At the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace, examples of new royal regalia ordered by Charles II to replace those sold off or melted down by the Parliamentarians will be on display, as well as paintings and furniture commissioned by the King to decorate his new royal residences.

A number of items recovered by Charles II during the Restoration, also part of the Royal Collection, will go on show.

Items on display, from his extravagant coronation in 1661 at Westminster Abbey, will include a silver-gilt dish measuring nearly a metre in diameter.

Charles II: Art & Power will also feature paintings of the "Windsor Beauties" - the beautiful women who attended the royal palaces lavish masques and balls - including the Duchess of Cleveland, who was the king's mistress.

Highlights of the Royal Academy show will include Anthony van Dyck's monumental portraits of the king and his family as well as his most celebrated and moving portrait of the king, Charles I, from the Louvre, which will return to England for the first time since the 17th Century.

It will also feature "arguably, the most spectacular set of tapestries ever produced in England" as well as paintings, statuettes, miniatures and drawings.

The BBC also announced the most extensive broadcast coverage of the Collection in 40 years.

It will air a Royal Collection Season, including a four-part series about the history of the Collection on BBC4 and a BBC2 programme on the Royal Academy show.

Several monarchs have contributed to the formation of The Royal Collection over the years, which contains over a million works, but Charles I is crediting with establishing it.

Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Surveyor Of The Queen's Pictures, said eruption of civil war "meant Charles I's "collecting career was relatively brief".

"But, he added, "in that time he amassed by far the most important collection of art that any monarch has ever amassed in Britain."

He added: "His entire collection was sold by the Commonweath in 1649... scattered throughout Europe. A significant extent was reassembled by Charles II but a huge amount was lost."

Loans mean the Royal Academy will reunite "works which have not been seen together for 350 years, works of superlative quality, which we will be able to see in a completely new light," he added.

Rather than being some "sort of doomed passion" his Collection "feels as if it was foundation for a British visual culture", he said.

:: Charles I: King and Collector runs from January 27 next year at the Royal Academy Of Arts.

:: Charles II: Art & Power, runs from December 8 2017 at the Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace.