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Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and three of their children at the Indian Pavilion of the Great Exhibition

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1851-1881 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Lafaye, Prosper, born 1806 - died 1883 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr Germaine Montrueil-Straus and Mlle Yvonne Montreuil in memory of their grandfather, Prosper Lafaye

  • Museum number:

    P.9-1966

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Proper Lafaye (1806-1883) was the cousin of the French painter and lithograph Paul Gavarny (1804-1866). Partly self-taught, he entered the studio of Auguste Couder (1789-1873) a former pupil of Jean-Baptiste Regnault (1754-1829) and Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825). Lafaye specialised in history paintings and interior scenes, and exhibited at the Salon from 1833 to 1847. He later became a restorer of stained glass windows.

This work is a fine example of Lafaye's history paintings, a category in which he specialised recording notable events of his time. The picture shows the visit of the Queen Victoria, prince Albert and their family to the Indian Pavilion at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Lafaye probably starts working on this composition while in London in the autumn 1851. Typical of his art is the fine chiaroscuro and diffuse light of this interior scene.

Physical description

Interior of an exhibition space with apparent steel structure, large Indian tent panel hanging on the walls and a Maharaja’s throne set in the middle of the composition among other Indian pieces of furniture and artefacts; the place is crowded with people in 19th century clothes.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)

Date

1851-1881 (painted)

Artist/maker

Lafaye, Prosper, born 1806 - died 1883 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

Height: 75.5 cm estimate, Width: 112.5 cm estimate, Height: 81 cm frame dimensions, Width: 117 cm frame dimensions, Depth: 6.5 cm frame dimensions

Object history note

Given by Dr Germaine Montreuil-Straus and Mlle Yvonne Montreuil in memory of their grandfather, Prosper Lafaye, 1966

Historical significance: This painting is a fine example of Prosper Lafaye's output of history paintings. It shows Queen Victoria, Price Albert and three of their children in the Indian pavilion at the Great Exhibition of 1851. According to the painter's notes, he started the painting in 1851 while visiting London that year and added about 30 years later the members of the Royal family as well as few figures on each side and notably, the portrait of his granddaughter Yvonne (one of the donors) as a little girl in the foreground.
Partly self-taught, Lafaye executed many interior scenes in a Romantic taste with powerful chiaroscuro. His painted oeuvre mostly witnessed the events of his time such as Cholera in Paris (1837- whereabouts unknown), Louis-Philippe, the Queen, King Leopold I and the Queen of Belgium visiting the Crusades Room in July 1844 (1844 - Musée National des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon) and View of the Salon of the Princess of Orleans (1842-Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris).
Lafaye painted in the same year another version of the present painting as well as the Room of the Sèvres Manufacture at the Great Exhibition of 1851, both in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. Lafaye used to consciously prepare his compositions with the help of preliminary sketches and watercolours. The Museum owns almost full-size watercolour sketch of the present painting (see P. 56- 1968). Dated 1851-59, this study provides an interesting insight into the artist's working practice as he sometimes used to re-work his composition over the years.

Historical context note

History painting, i.e. depictions of non recurring events based on religious, classical, literary or allegorical sources, particularly developed in Italy during the Renaissance (15th-16th centuries). History painting could include religious themes, or depictions of momentous recent events, but the term was most frequently associated with Classical subject-matter. However a renewed impetus was given to religious subjects after the Council of Trent (1545-63), which stipulated new iconographical programmes. The development of art treatises, in which the compositional rules guiding the art of painting were discussed also notably, influenced the evolution of history painting. From around 1600 history painting's principal rivals: still-life, landscape and genre painting began to emerge as independent collectable genres. Furthermore, the Rococo taste for the ornamental in the early 18th century prioritised the decorative quality of history painting, so that subject matters became more entertaining than exemplary. There was a renewed interest in history painting during the Neo-Classical period after which the taste for such pictures faded towards the end of the 19th century when an innovative approach to the image was led by the Symbolists and was developed further by subsequent schools in the early 20th century.

Descriptive line

Oil painting by Prosper Lafaye depicting 'Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Three of Their Children at the Great Exhibition'. Great Britain, 1851-1881.

Materials

Oil paint; Canvas

Techniques

Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Victoria (Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and Empress of India); Albert (Prince consort, consort of Queen Victoria); Crystal Palace; Great Exhibition Building; Figures; Men; Women

Categories

Paintings; The Great Exhibition

Collection code

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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