Charles curates ‘very personal’ exhibition for Buckingham Palace summer opening
The prince picks his favourite artwork for the display.
The Prince of Wales has recreated the look and feel of his home for the centrepiece exhibition of the summer opening of Buckingham Palace.
Charles selected more than 100 pieces from private family paintings and photographs, major art from the Royal Collection and work by up-and-coming artists for the attraction, which marks his 70th birthday year.
One of the highlights of Prince & Patron is Napoleon Bonaparte’s red felt hooded cloak, a stunning artefact the heir to the throne knows well from Windsor Castle, where it was on display for a number of years.
In audio commentary for exhibition visitors, Charles says about the cloak: “Since, as a child, I first caught sight of this cloak in the Grand Vestibule at Windsor, I have been fascinated by the sheer magic of the colour, the dashing pattern of the lining and the enthralling story of Napoleon himself which it conjures up.
“It is said to have been worn by the Emperor during his Egyptian campaign and was taken from his carriage after the Battle of Waterloo 15 years later.”
Personal touches in the exhibition include poignant family photographs, from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s recent wedding, Prince George’s official christening image and a picture of Charles holding his first grandchild with the Duke of Cambridge beside him.
The artwork is arranged on the walls of an octagonal room with tables filled with books by Charles, family snaps, vases and other decorative objects, while above are hung rows of paintings and other artworks, some with a tapestry as a backdrop.
Vanessa Remington, senior curator of paintings at the Royal Collection Trust, said: “It’s a departure because it is not a standard museum display and the works aren’t shown in isolation, they’re shown in profusion very, very densely.
“(Tables) are dressed with a range of objects and those are intended to show or give a flavour of the interiors of the Prince of Wales’s own residences because this is a very personal show.”
The exhibition creates the impression of different areas of a drawing room from the prince’s official London home Clarence House or his country retreat Highgrove in Gloucestershire.
Ms Remington, curator of the exhibition, said the pieces do not have explanatory text next to them as they wanted to create a visual display rather than a museum display.
In one section, painted oil sketches of William and Harry by Nicola Philipps are hung next to watercolours painted by Charles in the 1990s on the Queen’s private Balmoral estate.
Below are marble busts of the prince’s great-great-great-grandparents Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who themselves were well-known art lovers.
In the audio commentary, Charles says: “I am very fond of the two preparatory oil sketches of my sons which I acquired from the artist, Nicky Philipps, in 2009.
“They were painted for a double portrait that now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. Both are dressed in the regimental uniform of the Household Cavalry – the Blues and Royals – and are particularly good likenesses.”
The attraction also features work from students and artists from Charles’s three arts organisations, the Royal Drawing School, the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts and Turquoise Mountain, based in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Some of their contributions feature Islamic-inspired artwork and other traditions from the Middle East, including a moving triple portrait of three Yezidi women painted in Iraq by Hannah Rose Thomas, after they had escaped Isis captivity.
Speaking about a pavilion, filled with textiles from Wales, built in the middle of the exhibition space, Charles says in the audio commentary: “This striking cedar wood pavilion stands at over four-and-a-half metres high and features intricate carvings which draw on the rich heritage of Afghan design.”
The prince, who visited the exhibition with his wife on Wednesday, adds: “It is a joint effort between the artist Naseer Yasna and the Turquoise Mountain woodworking team and demonstrates how the charity is reviving traditional skills in historic communities – something in which, as patron, I am enormously proud to play a part.”
The summer opening of Buckingham Palace, which includes the Prince & Patron exhibition, opens on Saturday and runs until September 30.