The Queen’s Gallery exhibition selects a few key pieces to highlight and explore what a masterpiece means through some of the artwork from the collection at Buckingham Palace.

The Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day by Canaletto. (c) Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty the Queen.

Titian, Guercino, Guido Reni, Vermeer, Rembrandt, van Dyck, Rubens, Jan Steen, Claude and Canaletto are just some of the artists whose work has found its way into the Royal Collection – but rarely seen by the public except during the Summer when Buckingham Palace is open to the public.

Given that Buckingham Palace is currently undergoing major work, many of the paintings from the Picture Gallery have been removed for protection. To make the most of this, the Queen’s Gallery has curated a stunning exhibition surrounding these works and while we can’t visit in person at the moment, this online curator’s tour gives us fascinating insight into it.

Led by Desmond Shawe-Taylor and Isabella Manning, this online guided tour selects a few key pieces from each room of the exhibition to highlight the many different ways in which a painting can be classed as a masterpiece.

From Canaletto’s Venetian paintings to a self portrait by Rubens, each painting is extraordinary in its own right. From the attention paid to detail to the variety in the way in which colour is used, it is certainly an exhibition that has dazzling quality throughout.

While thousands of people may visit Buckingham Palace across the Summer – many would probably not be able to see many of the paintings displayed in this exhibition due to the fact that many are much higher than the usual sightline, making this a real experience.

Both Shawe-Taylor and Manning offer great depth and insight into each piece that they specifically focus on in each room. Their commentary is clear and informative throughout, allowing the opportunity for those who are perhaps not so well informed about the artwork to really absorb what they are seeing and to learn something new.

From what can be seen in this tour, the whole exhibition is laid out perfectly to really capture the paintings at their best. In particular, pieces such as Cristofano Allori’s painting of Judith holding the head of Holofernes are really vivid in terms of the sense of drama and violence it portrays, well matched with the other works surrounding them. Each room has been carefully curated thematically to provide great focus.

Much of the time as seen here, the curators seem to be happy to allow the works to speak for themselves, while getting those looking at the work to question what a masterpiece is to them.

Elegantly presented, this exhibition is well worth catching in this online form thanks to the way in which it has been filmed and narrated to show off. But when we are able to go back to galleries it will also be worth a visit to see these masterpieces up close.

By Emma Clarendon

Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace the curator’s tour is available to watch online. The exhibition when it reopens its doors is set to be on display until January 2022.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐