This winter, a selection of paintings from Buckingham Palace’s Royal Collection will be put on display for a gallery audience for the first time ever. The exhibit will include pieces from artists like Titian, Rembrandt, and Vermeer – and all because the palace is having some work done. 

Opening 4 December and running through January 2022, Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace will feature 65 paintings that normally appear in the Picture Gallery, from Rubens’s 1623 Self-Portrait to Titian’s Madonna and Child with Tobias and the Angel, circa 1537. “Visitors will be encouraged to consider the artists’ intentions, why the paintings were highly prized in their day and why we would now consider these works to be ‘masterpieces,’” a press release from the Royal Collection Trust states.

Titian, Madonna and Child with Tobias and the Angel, c.1537

Some paintings, like Rembrandt’s The Shipbuilder and his Wife and the aforementioned Rubens work show their creators’ consummate use of paint to convey light and depth, while others, like Johannes Vermeer’s The Music Lesson, capture apparently impromptu scenes that bely their thoughtful construction. Still others – the baudy drunkenness of Jan Steen’s Interior of a Tavern, with Cardplayers and a Violin Player, the dream-like haze of Claude Lorrain’s Harbour Scene at Sunset – portray an atmosphere that practically jumps off the canvas. 

Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of Jan Rijcksen and his Wife, Griet Jans, (‘The Shipbuilder and his Wife’), 1633
Rembrandt van Rijn,

The paintings that make up the exhibit are being removed from the Picture Gallery to prep for the palace’s Reservicing Programme, a ten-year project to update the 18th-century structure’s essential services, from lead pipes to wiring and boilers. 

A display that traces the evolution of the collection and the gallery itself will accompany the main exhibit. First opened to the public during Queen Victoria’s tenure, when the royal family wasn’t in residence, the Picture Gallery is usually open to the public during the annual Summer Opening of Buckingham Palace, but this is the first time that pieces from the collection will be on view as part of a long-term public exhibition, and advance booking will be essential. 

For more information, visit

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