A ‘scandalous’ painting not displayed for 150 years: The art of and by Queen Victoria

Home » A ‘scandalous’ painting not displayed for 150 years: The art of and by Queen Victoria

June 21, On This Day

Coronation portrait by George Hayter | Via Wikimedia

Queen Victoria reigned over the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from June 20, 1837 (shortly after she turned 18) until her death in 1901.
This 63-year-long Victorian era was longer than that of any previous British monarch and was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire (including winning her the titled of Empress of India).
Some even call her the most painted royal in British history, and she certainly had a wide range of portraits commissioned, from childhood to her old age.

Victoria at age four, by Stephen Poyntz Denning (1823) | Via Wikimedia
Portrait of Victoria with her spaniel Dash by George Hayter, 1833 | Via Wikimedia
Leslie, Charles Robert; Queen Victoria (1819-1901), in Her Coronation Robes; Paintings Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/queen-victoria-18191901-in-her-coronation-robes-30814
Portrait by Winterhalter, 1859 | Via Wikimedia
Victoria admired Heinrich von Angeli’s 1875 portrait of her for its “honesty, total want of flattery, and appreciation of character”.[146] | Via Wikimedia
Muller, Bertha; Queen Victoria; National Portrait Gallery, London; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/queen-victoria-157318

There is a famous “secret” painting she is known to have commissioned for her husband, consort Prince Albert, as the couple was quite deeply in love. It was in 1843, on Albert’s 24th birthday, when they had been married for 4 years already and had had 3 of their 9 children. The special portrait was ordered from favoured royal artist Franz Xaver Winterhalter. It shows the queen with her hair coming undone from her chignon in a cascade over her bare shoulders — a rare thing for a 19th century woman, much less a queen, to do. The faraway look in her eyes makes her look languid and lovesick, also a scandalous thing to record at the time (remember those “Victorian sensibilities?”). For over 150 years, this painting was not displayed, till it finally became public.

The 1843 painting by Franz Xaver Winterhalter shows a Victoria who looks utterly lovesick, her gift to Prince Albert | Via Wiki Commons

But another fascinating aspect of the queen’s life is that she herself was a little bit of an artist, as outlined by Brain Pickings. Her art has been described as ranging from “subtle yet rich watercolors to her seemingly austere but remarkably expressive black-and-white ink sketches”.

Queen Victoria’s children in costume for a Twelfth Night performance: ink and watercolour sketch by Queen Victoria, Tuesday 6th January 1852 | Via Brain Pickings
Eos sitting: pen and ink sketch by Queen Victoria, Thursday 1st August 1844 | Via Brain Pickings
Prince Albert in Bal Costumé outfit: pen and ink sketch with watercolor by Queen Victoria, Thursday 12th May 1842 | Via Brain Pickings
Victoria, Princess Royal and Queen Victoria in costume: pen and ink sketch with watercolor by Queen Victoria, Friday 6th June 1845 | Via Brain Pickings

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