Queen Victoria & Prince Albert's Bicentenary
2019 marks the 200th anniversary of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria’s births. To help mark the occasion in the V&A, temporary displays reveal the royal couple’s contribution to the museum in its first decade, between the closing of the Great Exhibition in 1851 and Prince Albert’s sudden death in December 1861.
The displays are close to the William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, where a star new acquisition, the sapphire and diamond coronet designed by Prince Albert for Victoria, 1840-42, is the centrepiece of a new presentation of the jewellery collections. At the entrance to the National Art Library Prince Albert: Science & the Arts on the page reveals Prince Albert’s personal contribution to the museum’s library during his lifetime. Victoria and Albert’s Museum traces the crucial role that the royal couple played in the formation of the museum and its collections. The display includes objects that were bought, lent and presented to the museum, up until the death of Prince Albert in 1861, which have never been brought together and exhibited before now. The museum’s own ‘royal collection’ of objects given by Prince Albert and Queen Victoria in the 1850s, is only a fraction of the many works of art they lent to help the young museum become established. Watercolours from 1856-7 take us inside the museum’s first home in Marlborough House, a royal residence next to St. James’s Palace. Never exhibited before at the V&A, are two large designs for the museum and for ‘Albertopolis’ by the architects C. R. Cockerell and Gottfried Semper that Albert commissioned himself in 1853-55, kindly lent by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. Photographs of the South Kensington Museum from 1857-8 reveal the surprising mixture of displays in the first new building.
This lecture introduces the displays and shares some of the research behind the new book by Julius Bryant, Creating the V&A: Victoria and Albert’s Museum (V&A/Lund Humphries, 2019).
Visit our SoundCloud channel to listen to past Lunchtime Lectures: soundcloud.com/vamuseum/sets/v-a-lunchtime-lecture-series