Saturday, August 24, 2013

Painting of the Day: Queen Victoria’s Coronation 1838

The Coronation of Queen Victoria
Sir George Hayter, 1838
The Royal Collection
Queen Victoria—at the time of her accession in 1837, formed long-lasting relationships with a variety of artists and jewelers who enjoyed her patronage and support. Sir George Hayter had been appointed as Queen Victoria’s “Painter of History and Portrait,” in 1837, but had impressed Her Majesty seberal years before. Later, Sir Hayter succeeded Sir David Wilkie as “Principal Painter in Ordinary to the Queen” in 1841.

The relationship between the painter and his patron would not sour, but Victoria, after 1842 never commissioned another portrait from Hayter. She quickly began to prefer the personalities and styles of Sir Edwin Landseer and Franz Xaver Winterhalter.

However, in 1938, Victoria commissioned her official State Portrait, from Hayter who painted the nineteen year-old Queen as she looked at her Coronation in Westminster Abbey on June 28 of that year. Victoria is shown seated in her Homage Chair, wearing the Coronation Robes and the Imperial State Crown and holding the Sceptre with the Cross. Originally, Hayter’s background for the painting showed Westminster Abbey, but the Queen did not care for the coldness of the setting and asked him to change it to an unspecific regal setting.

The Baroque and almost religious feeling of the painting belies the reality of the day which did not go smoothly at all. The coronation had been badly planned aside from a dish of sandwiches which had been placed behind the altar—the only sustenance available during the long ceremony. Everything else was as complicated as possible. Yet, the Queen suffered it without a beat. Even as the orb and scepter grew too heavy in her hands, she didn’t bat an eye, and did not express her extreme disgust when other parts of the ceremony went wrong. For instance, the Coronation Ring, which had been made to fit her little finger, was forced on to her fourth finger by the Archbishop, causing the finger to swell and bleed. Later, the hurting Queen was forced to soak her hand in iced water after the ceremony before she could remove the ring. Despite the myriad complications, the Queen described the day as ‘the proudest of my life’.

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