FeatureWhat makes a masterpiece?

August 3, 20210

See the finest paintings in the Royal Collection like never before in the new exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace.

Get up close to world-famous works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Rubens, Titian and Canaletto, explore what makes a masterpiece and discover why these paintings have stood the test of time. Usually found in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham Palace and only seen during the Palace’s annual summer opening, this exhibition is your unique chance to see these spectacular pictures in a modern gallery setting.

 

 

Experience the heyday of the Dutch Golden Age, with works by Johannes Vermeer, Jan Steen and Pieter de Hooch that capture everyday life through minute detail, tactile surfaces and spaces filled with light and air. Learn how Rembrandt and Frans Hals give their portraits such character and movement through their skilful handling of paint, and how Rubens brilliantly recreates the translucent quality of flesh.

For example, look closely at Frans Hals’ serrated brushstrokes on the sleeve of the Portrait of a Man, 1630, and see how they convey a sense of movement creating the shimmering effect of light on black satin.  Rembrandt uses fine lines scratched with the back of a brush to etch time into the wrinkled skin of Griet Jans and Jan Rijcksen in his ‘The Shipbuilder and his Wife’, 1633. He uses the same technique in his Portrait of Agatha Bas, 1641, to give the impression of soft downy hairs around his subject’s temple.

  • Jan Steen, A Woman at her Toilet, 1663. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
    Jan Steen, A Woman at her Toilet, 1663. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021.

The exhibition also explores 200 years of Italian painting, including works by Titian, Lotto, and Canaletto. Journey through expressive landscapes, from the cataclysmic storm in Gaspard Dughet’s Seascape with Jonah and the Whale, c.1654, to the unruffled stillness and hazy, diffused light of Claude Lorrain’s Harbour Scene at Sunset, 1643. In The Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day, c.1733–4, Canaletto is at his most recognisable, and the rowers heaving their oars transport the viewer to the lively festival celebrating Venice’s marriage to the sea.

 

 

Turning from grand scenes to studies of the human form, discover how artists took inspiration from antique sculpture in their depiction of idealised female figures. Cleopatra’s once-rosy skin seems to turn to cold marble before our eyes in Guido Reni’s Cleopatra with the Asp, 1628, and in Parmigianino’s Pallas Athene, 1535, the goddess’s hair is as bright and finely spun as the gold of her breastplate.

The exhibition has been made possible by the removal of the paintings from the Picture Gallery, one of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, to prepare for the next phase of the Reservicing Programme. This major ten-year project will overhaul the Palace’s essential services, including lead pipes and ageing electrical wiring and boilers, to ensure the building is fit for the future as an official residence of the Sovereign and a national asset for generations to come.

 

Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace is open at The Queen’s Gallery until February 2022. Pre-booking is essential. Adult £16; Child (5-16) £8; Under 5s free.

 

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