Review: Treasures From the Queen’s Palaces, Queen’s Gallery, Holyrood Palace

RUMOUR has it that the Queen will only view one work of art at a time.***

Tuesday, 8th May 2012, 1:00 pm

She plans her visits in advance, goes straight to her chosen work and stays there for half an hour or so, leaving without looking at anything else.

The Queen’s Gallery is giving Edinburgh locals a chance to do the same with the Queen’s own collection. A ticket is good for a year of visits, so it is possible to visit the exhibition multiple times.

Only a teasing sampler of the full collection, the show can easily be enjoyed in a single visit.

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The exhibition is a cross-section of the Queen’s extensive collection, chosen to show the variety and prestige of the collection rather than to follow any particular theme. The overall effect, added to by the opulent gold frames and blue wallpaper, is that of a Royal Collection burlesque show, hinting at more to come without the intention of giving it.

But perhaps you, like the Queen, have the superhuman ability to look at four sketches by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo for an hour or so without desperately wanting to see the other six hundred da Vinci prints which the audio guide tells you are in the collection?

Sèvres porcelain, Chippendale chair, an illuminated book of hours, a Fabergé egg, a selection of Indian objects including the crown of the Emperor Bahadar Shah II, are all similarly spectacular hints of the larger collection visitors are not allowed to see.

Of particular interest are the Tam O’Shanter chair made from timber taken from the birthplace of Robert Burns and the self-portrait of Annibale Carracci.

There is a connection between every work on display and a member of the royal family. In one extreme case, a Landseer portrait of a greyhound turns out to be a Christmas present from Victoria to Prince Albert. It’s a picture of his favourite dog, Eos.

The personal nature of the Queen’s collection is the flavour of this whirlwind palace tour, but the shallow survey of art history it presents is frustrating.

n Run ends 4 November