Stunning old masters by renowned painters like Rembrandt, Vermeer and Canaletto are to be exhibited together for the first time, the Royal Collection Trust has said.
The 65 paintings are the highlights of the Royal Collection and will go on display later this year as Buckingham Palace’s picture gallery, where they are hung, is about to undergo reservicing work.
When the exhibition opens in December visitors will be encouraged to examine the techniques of the painters who were masters at the use of light, pigment, brush strokes and artistic devices to create emotion and realism.
The Royal Collection Trust said about the exhibition: “In Rubens’ self-portrait, 1623, thinly applied pigment brilliantly conveys the translucent quality of flesh, and blue and red highlights help create the impression of three dimensions.
“The furrowed brows, weather-beaten cheeks and wrinkled skin of Griet Jans and Jan Rijcksen in Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and his Wife, 1633, appear to have been sculpted out of paint, vein by vein.”
The Royal Collection Trust, a charity responsible for the care of the Royal Collection, said about the Vermeer work which will be exhibited: “In The Music Lesson, early 1660s, the impression of an ‘encountered’ scene belies Johannes Vermeer’s carefully constructed composition.”
It goes on to say: “The rowers heaving their oars in Canaletto’s The Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day, c.1733–4, transport the viewer to the lively festival celebrating Venice’s marriage to the sea.”
The picture gallery is being reserviced as part of a 10-year programme of work to overhaul the palace’s essential services and key infrastructure, including lead pipes and ageing electrical wiring and boilers, costing more than £350 million.
Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace will be accompanied by a display charting the evolution of the palace’s picture gallery after Buckingham House was acquired by George III and Queen Charlotte in 1762.
Their picture arrangements, a mix of Dutch, Flemish and Italian works, continue to influence artworks in the picture gallery to this day.
Thirty-four of the paintings in the exhibition were acquired by their son, George IV, who commissioned the architect John Nash to transform Buckingham House into the principal royal palace in the 1820s.
Part of Nash’s scheme was the creation of the picture gallery to show off George IV’s collection of paintings.
During Queen Victoria’s reign, the picture gallery was opened to the public for the first time, when the royal family was not in residence, and a catalogue of the paintings was sold.
Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace will be staged at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, from December 4 to January 2022.