The Bowes Museum is delighted to announce an exhibition of watercolours, opening in spring 2018, generously loaned by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection.
The Bowes Museum is one of only four venues in the UK – and the only one in the North of England - to stage Queen Victoria in Paris, an exhibition of watercolours commissioned by the monarch as a souvenir of her momentous 10-day state visit to Paris in August 1855. The paintings provide both a fascinating record and a lasting legacy of the opulence, pomp and pageantry surrounding the trip.
The visit by the royal party, which included Prince Albert and the couple’s two eldest children, Victoria and Albert Edward (later King Edward VII), marked a turning point in Anglo-French relations, strained since the defeat of Napoleon I at Waterloo 40 years earlier.
The thaw began when Bonaparte’s nephew, the self appointed Napoleon III, and his wife the Empress Eugénie, keen to reconcile France with Britain, visited the Queen at Windsor Castle in the spring of 1855 at the suggestion of Prince Albert. Initially mistrustful, Victoria was soon captivated, and delighted to accept the Emperor’s reciprocal invitation to visit Paris in August of that year.
The Paris of 1855 was a hugely exciting place to be, even for a queen. Queen Victoria visited during the Exposition Universelle, the international exhibition of fine arts and industry – closely modelled on her husband’s Great Exhibition staged at London’s Crystal Palace in 1851.
The visit of the ‘Reine de l’Angleterre’ was met with much anticipation in France; the Queen greeted by cheering crowds as she embarked on a packed schedule of ceremonial and cultural engagements, interspersed with entertainments laid on in her honour.
This period in history coincides with the time when John and Joséphine Bowes were living in Paris and forming the collection that would become The Bowes Museum, so they would no doubt have attended some of the festivities.
An evening gala performance at the Opéra saw the royal party receive a ‘hearty reception’’, with God save the Queen ‘sung splendidly, amidst enthusiastic cheers.’
As Victoria recalled in her journal . . .
‘. . . another most splendid day. Most truly do the Heavens favour & smile upon our visit & upon this happy alliance. It was the same when the Emperor and Empress came to us in April.’
As well as being politically significant, the visit was personally very exciting for Victoria, delighted at completing a carriage tour of Paris incognito wearing a black veil over her face. She recorded the 'never to be forgotten week' rapturously in her diary, boasting of 'the closest alliance which has almost ever existed between two great, independent nations'.
As a passionate collector of watercolours since the early 1850s, those featured in the exhibition were either commissioned by the Queen or presented as gifts by the artists as a souvenir of her visit. Queen Victoria was herself a keen watercolourist, and three of her own works made during the Paris tour are included in the exhibition, which opens on 24 March 2018, running until 24 June.
Adrian Jenkins, Director of The Bowes Museum, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to share with our visitors these beautifully preserved watercolours, generously loaned by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection.”
The exhibition will be complemented by a programme of events, which will be rolled out on the Museum’s website at www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk, beginning with the following by Rosie Razzall, Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Royal Collection Trust:
Queen Victoria, Napoleon III and the Events of 1855
Date 15 May Time 2.30pm
Join Rosie Razzall, Curator of Prints and Drawings at Royal Collection Trust to learn more about Queen Victoria's historic state visit in Paris in 1855; a remarkable moment in Anglo-French relations. The events of this ten-day tour – spectacular balls, firework displays and cheering crowds as well as the quieter moments – are brought to life through discussion of the watercolours on display in the fascinating exhibition Queen Victoria in Paris.
Annual adult pass £14.00 concs £12.00); Family annual pass £30.00 (2 adults & up to 4 young people aged 5-17); Family annual pass £16.00 (1 adult & up to 4 young people aged 5-17); Student day entry £6.00; Under 18 day entry £5.00 (under 14s must be accompanied by an adult); Under 5s free; Carers free. Call 01833 690606.
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