Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Queen Mary While Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, 1873

Queen Mary
as Princess Victoria Mary of Teck
Dixon, 1873
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This watercolor on ivory miniature of HSH Princess Victoria Mary of Teck was painted in 1873 by Annie Dixon. The miniature was most likely painted for Queen Victoria who enjoyed collecting miniature paintings of her family. Whether or not the miniature ever made into the hands of Queen Victoria is debatable since the piece was not in the Royal Collection at the time it was discovered by the sitter herself, then Queen Mary, who quickly acquired this lost portrait from her past.

At the time that this miniature was painted, Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (known as Princess May) never imagined that she’d ever be anything more than Her Serene Highness. Her much beloved, but rather domineering mother, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, had plans for her only daughter—wishing for May to act as her Lady-in-Waiting and assist her with her many charities. While Princess May was a girl, Queen Victoria was impressed with the child’s intellect, but find her height and large features to be rather off-putting. It wasn’t until May had grown into a lovely teenager that Queen Victoria realized that her cousin, Princess Mary Adelaide’s, daughter was quite exceptional. At that point Victoria began to realize that “May” was a natural choice as the future bride to the heir presumptive to the throne—Prince Eddie. When Eddie died, Mary became engaged to his brother, Prince George who would become King George V.

I find this portrait fascinating since it shows Mary as the beautiful fair-haired girl that she was, but especially hints at her keen intellect and curiosity. I’m not surprised that Her Majesty acquired this miniature when finding it. She had a passion for returning lost items ot the Royal Collection, but also had a secret interest in chronicling her own life. This dedication to recording her personal history proved most helpful when, at the time of the coronation of her granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth, Mary was one of the few people left living who could remember the days of Victoria and the traditions of the Royal Court which she held so dear.

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