I was reading a bit of global art news and found that in preparation for renovations to Buckingham Palace, some of the Royal Collection from the Picture Gallery will be on public display in the Queen’s Gallery! (As I have a certain fondness for all things British, this news is super exciting!) The Royal Collection has been on the walls of one of the state rooms in Buckingham Palace (the office and residence of the Queen of England) for centuries. Visitors are permitted to see this collection of works by Rembrandt, Titian, Vermeer, Rubens, Canaletto, Van Dyck, and others during the annual summer opening, but now these beautiful works will be available to the public in the Queen’s Gallery! This means that not only will these 65 paintings will be put on display in a gallery exhibition setting for the first time, but will also be more available to the public. They will be in the Queen’s Gallery from December 4th, 2020 through January of 2022.
In reading about this, an article stated that one of the paintings going on display has long been said to be the Queen’s favorite painting: The Shipbuilder and his Wife (1633). This Rembrandt painting is a great choice by Her Majesty and seems to make sense to me as to why it would be her favorite (even if that information is just speculation!).
This oil painting shows an older couple in a comedic and modern way. The wife bursts into the husband’s workspace to deliver an urgent message, which judging by her husband’s face, isn’t nearly as important as she believes it to be. This couple was identified in 1970 as Jan Rijcksen and wife Griet Jans. I love how Rembrandt, never one to shy away from depicting physical aging in a raw and honest way, also paints this couple in an ordinary scene of life. A flustered wife, busy with other things, tending to her husband’s apparent needs and her husband, busy with other things, responding with attention and slight aggravation. One can see in their faces the emotions felt at the moment Griet Jans threw open the door to Jan’s workspace.
One can see the connection between the husband and wife clearly in this painting. Though they are shown in a comical moment of interruption, there is an undeniable bond between them. Their faces are both turned to face the other, which is normally how married couples were painted at this time, but usually the spouses hung in separate frames. They are inhabiting the same space for the audience as being together in the portrait and also inhabiting the same physical space in Jan’s workspace, alluding to the connection of the marriage bond they share. Jan physically turns to face Griet Jans, showing her his total attention even though he is frustrated at being interrupted. The devotion of Griet Jans for bringing Jan this message is evidenced by her flustered appearance, and his devotion is shown in his attention being fully brought him away from his work. This is also shown in their hands being brought together as she hand him the message that sent her. A moment away from touching, their hands allow the audience to see this as symbolic of their unity even in the less pleasant of times.
This couple clearly has been together for quite some time, as Rembrandt paints the lines in their foreheads and around their eyes, loose skin upon their cheeks, and graying/thinning of their hair. I believe Her Majesty The Queen takes a particular interest to this painting because both the commitment of marriage is shown in this one scene, as are the general frustrations of marriage. The nautical ties between Jan Rijcksen and His Royal Highness, Prince Philip are too easy to spot as being something Her Majesty would identify with. Being the wife of a man whose work deals with being at sea is shown in this portrait and something the Queen herself knows firsthand. This painting shows the mundane parts of marriage as comical while also showing the strength of a couple who has been together for life, and I believe Her Majesty appreciates and identifies with both of these themes.
That’s all from me today. I hope you enjoyed reading about Her Majesty The Queen’s supposed favorite painting! Have a wonderful week!