The Royal Collection is one of the last great European royal collections to remain intact and forms a unique and valuable record of the personal tastes of British kings and queens over the past 500 years. Comprising almost all aspects of the fine and decorative arts and running to more than a million objects, the collection includes over 600 old master paintings by Dutch and Flemish artists. Amongst those represented are Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, Aelbert Cuyp, Jacob van Ruisdael and Hendrick Avercamp. Many of the seventeenth-century paintings in the collection were produced by artists who travelled from the Low Countries to England and were granted positions at court, as in the case of Van Dyck who painted many portraits for Charles I. Other paintings arrived in the form of ‘Dutch Gifts’ to the Stuart Court by the States of Holland, emphasizing the close familial connections between the Stuarts and the House of Orange.
George III was a significant collector of works on paper, and acquired the majority of the Dutch and Flemish drawings and prints in the Collection today through a network of agents across Europe. George IV particularly favored seventeenth century Dutch art and as Prince Regent acquired a number of old masters released to the market after the French Revolution. His collection of drawings, formed on the London market rather than by purchase in Europe as his father’s had been, includes numerous works by members of the Langendijk family, acquired as part of his fascination with military affairs.
The Royal Collection is held in trust by The Queen as Sovereign for her successors and the nation. It is not owned by her as a private individual. Works of art from the Royal Collection are spread amongst different locations, including The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.
Anna Reynolds, Deputy Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures (May 2021)