Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

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, uk (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:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, room 315, case 21, shelf R

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, uk (made)


1851-1881 (painted)


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

Materials and Techniques

Oil on canvas


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.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900 , London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 60, cat. no. 131.
The following is the full text of the entry:

Prosper LAFAYE (1806-83)
French School
Prosper Lafaye, a cousin of Gavarni, was born at Mont-Saint-Sulpice (Yonne). He lived in Paris from the age of thirteen and became a pupil of Auguste Couder. He painted some battle scenes for Louis Philippe's Musée Historique at Versailles, but his most typical paintings are of interiors, characterized by the interplay of strong light and shade. He exhibited at the Salon from 1833, but lack of success in his later years led him to specialize in the painting and restoration of stained glass windows.

Lit. J. Wilhelm, 'Deux peintures par Prosper Lafaye' in Bulletin du Musée Carnavalet, 8, no. 2, 1955, pp. 12-5; Exposition Gavarni et Prosper Lafaye, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Auxerre, 1961.

29 ¾ x 44 ¼ (75.5 x 112.5)

The painting was begun in 1851, when the interior of the pavilion was painted. Most of the figures, including those of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the children (left of centre), and of Lafaye's grand-daughter Yvonne (one of the donors of the picture) in the left foreground, were added in 1881. A note to this effect appears in the artist's diary under 12 August 1881:
"Terminé à peu près le tableau commencé il y a au moins 30 ans repreésentant l'intérieur de l' exposition des Indes. Introduit la reine d' Angleterre
et des figures de toutes sortes, entre autres la petite Yvonne et sa mère et des personnages du Mont [St Sulpice], etc.'
The Museum also has an almost full-size water-colour sketch (P. 56- 1968; 21 3/8 x 41 in., dated 1851-69), in which the pavilion is identical but the disposition of the figures - apparently added in 1869 - differs. There are pencil drawings of the individual commissioners in the Dept. of Prints & Drawings (E. 130/70-1968) and another version in oil in the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris.

Condition. Flaking surface laid down and canvas relined in 1966.
Prov. Direct descent in the artist's family; given to the Museum in 1966 by Dr Germaine Montreuil-Straus and Mademoiselle Yvonne Montreuil in memory of their grandfather, Prosper Lafaye.
Lit. For the preparatory sketches see: V. & A. Museum, Dept. of Prints & Drawings and Dept. of Paintings: Accessions 1968, pp. 138-45, 161.

Exhibition History

(Palazzo della Triennale 01/04/2015-31/10/2015)


Canvas; Oil paint


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Men; Figures; Women; Victoria, Queen; Crystal Palace; Albert Francis Augustus Charles Emmanuel (Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Prince Consort of Queen Victoria of Great Britain,); Great Exhibition Building


Paintings; The Great Exhibition

Collection code


Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.