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The Art of Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria, self-portrait, 1835

In January of 2012, many of us learned that Queen Victoria, the queen for whom we remember most as being the inspiration for the “Victorian Age” was quite a talented artist in her own right.

One must first remember that during her lifetime, 1819-1901, there were few things that refined ladies were permitted to do. Drawing and painting were one of the few activities that were thought safe for their ‘gentle dispositions’ and pursuits that were deemed lady-like.

Queen Victoria’s Art Training

Victoria was born the grandchild of King George III. Perhaps to gain favor with the king, several of the world’s most famous artists became the future queen’s tutors. Among her tutors was the famous artist Edwin Landseer, most well-known for his human-like portrayals of animals. Another of her famous tutors was Richard Westall, a portrait artist. Westall tutored the future queen after painting her portrait.

A portrait of Victoria, painted when she was only four years old, was done by Stephen Poyntz Denning (1795-1864). However, there is no mention if he was also one of her art tutors. One of her paintings displayed online in the Royal Collection of Queen Victoria mentions that she wrote to her daughter about receiving watercolor instruction from the artist W. L. Leitch and how much she enjoyed painting.

Queen Victoria’s Sketches

Sketches by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, primarily of their young children, were sent to a local printer. The printer created etchings and printed copies of the sketches so they could be shared with other family members. In 1847, journalist Jasper Tomsett Judge, who specialized in gossip-ridden stories on the Royals, acquired 60 of the prints from an employee at the printing firm. The family sought an injunction against the publication and scheduled exhibition. The injunction was granted and remained in place during the Queen’s lifetime. It was only lifted when it was decided her drawings should be added to the Royal Collection. Historians believe that the queen made a total of 62 drawings.  However, the private collections at Windsor and the British Museum are likely to be the only complete sets.

A family, who remains anonymous, found six of her drawings in the family attic. The discovery made news world-wide and it introduced many of us to Queen Victoria’s drawings for the first time.

queen victoria sketch

Princess Royal Victoria, 1841, age 1

Can you just imagine how hard it must have been for small children to play in the clothing children were expected to wear in the 1840s? This charming drawing is of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, Princess Royal Victoria. Princess Victoria would marry Prince Frederick William of Prussia, who would later become Emperor Frederick III of Prussia.

Intimate Moments Kept Private

queen victoria drawingOf the group of six newly released drawings, this one is perhaps my favorite.

It also appears to show Princess Victoria as an infant being held by either Queen Victoria, or a nurse. In the background, there’s a bird in a cage. The family was known to have a variety of pets and several of the other sketches attributed to Queen Victoria included the family pets.

Part of the reason why Queen Victoria had so objected to the release of her sketches was because they showed such an intimate insight into their personal lives. Chris Albury, senior catalogue auctioneer at Dominic Winder Book Auctions in Cirencester explained that these drawings led to “one of the earliest examples of high-profile figures taking injunctions out against the press.”

The six sketches were auctioned off on January 25th and realized 6,600 British Pounds, over 4 times the original auction estimate.

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