150th Anniversary of the Death of Prince Albert
Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1819-1861), Prince Consort of the British Queen Victoria, was one of the most outstanding men of the nineteenth century. More than any other figure, Prince Albert symbolises the Anglo-German cultural exchange and a policy which strived for peace. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his death, a museum exhibition is to be dedicated to him for the first time in Germany.
The exhibition traces the prince’s work and influence through works of art and provides a living portrait of the prince. The title of the exhibition makes allusion to the prince’s renowned handsome looks, as well as to the portraits of the Prince Consort and the royal family which Albert and Victoria deliberately and consciously used in their successful efforts to win back popular respect for the British royalty. The exhibition centers on a number of outstanding loans from the Royal Collection, generously lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, which, together with exhibits from the British Museum, the Saxon State Library and the Coburg State Archive, complement the exhibits from the art collections of the Veste Coburg.
By way of introduction to the exhibition, a marble bust by Emil Wolff, sculpted in Rome in 1839, is displayed alongside a number of miniature portraits and late photographs, providing an opportunity to study different portrayals of Albert and how realistic or idealised they were.
The next section is devoted to the relationship between Albert and Victoria, in particular as expressed in their reciprocal gifts on special occasions, as well as portraits and ornaments. The set of jewellery with orange blossom motifs is exquisite and highly symbolic; Albert gave the first item in this set to his beloved spouse in 1839.
Another section focuses on an array of exhibits which shed light on Albert’s public image in Britain and includes official court portraits and caricatures. As Prince Albert was involved in all aspects of public life in England, he was an open target for satire.
Perhaps Prince Albert’s most far-reaching achievement, the first Great Exhibition in London in 1851, is dealt with in a further section of the exhibition which shows views of Crystal Palace and examples of craft work which were presented at the time, and which represent Prince Albert’s service to industry and culture.
Retreats such as Schloss Rosenau near Coburg, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and the Scottish castle of Balmoral were extremely important to Albert and Victoria. These are remembered in watercolours and photographs. For Albert, they also offered an opportunity to draft his own architectural and craft designs, as well as a chance to pursue the passion for hunting which he had inherited from his father.
The section devoted to documentation on these places of retreat is entitled “The Art of Remembrance”. The two albums containing in all 120 photos of Coburg and Gotha taken by Francis Bedford 1857 and 1858 will be accessible in digital form for the first time in the exhibition.
The key items in the section entitled “From Knight to Saint” are a memorial portrait of Albert for the room where he died in Windsor Castle, and a silver statuette of Albert as a “holy knight” which was intended as a christening present for his grandson Albert Victor. The mediaeval style it evokes was already popular with Albert’s father, Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
With the views of the mausoleum in Frogmore, St. George’s Chapel in Windsor and examples of the numerous memorials which were erected to him, the exhibition shows Victoria’s intention of perpetuating Albert’s memory both in private and in public.
The “Prince Albert Lounge” is a multimedia section where visitors can explore the many and varied portrayals of Albert, listen to music, some of which he composed himself or which has associations with him and Victoria, and hear letters and diary entries which give an insight into the couple’s personality. The texts are read by inhabitants of Coburg.
The exhibition is curated by art historian Dr. Claudia Däubler-Hauschke. More information here.