To honor Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, Sotheby’s will sell British art and exhibit historical portraits as part of a month-long program in London
Sotheby’s London is preparing to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee in June, honoring her 70 years on the throne with a month-long program of exhibitions and events celebrating art, design, literature and other British artistic productions, all leading up to its marquee summer auctions.
Queen Elizabeth, who turns 96 on April 21, is Britain’s first sovereign to reach the Platinum Jubilee milestone, having acceded to the throne on June 2, 1953. She became the country’s longest-serving monarch on June 9. September 2015, surpassing her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.
“Britain has long been known for its creativity and the Queen has been at the helm of it throughout her reign, both as custodian of a world-class collection and as an inspiration to artists, designers and more,” Frances Christie, vice president of Sotheby’s UK and Ireland, said in a statement.
The auction house will hold a curated exhibition of important royal manuscripts, 50 royal tiaras and portraits of Britain’s seven reigning queens in its galleries from May 28 to June 15.
The show traces the evolution of tiara trends from the 1830s, with a Napoleonic-inspired number featuring diamonds set in a leaf crown, through to the 1960s, with a turquoise and diamond tiara designed by Van Cleef and Arpels which shows the then growing influence of Indian Fashion. The jeweled headpieces are on loan from courts across Europe and are not for sale, but a number of the contemporary tiaras on display will be available for purchase.
In the manuscripts section, highlights include the death warrant of Thomas Percy, seventh Earl of Northumberland, signed and sealed by Elizabeth I and on loan from Alnwick Castle, where the Earl’s descendants live to this day. Wormsley Library, a private estate in Buckinghamshire, England, lent a selection of royal bindings.
But the centerpiece of the exhibition will undoubtedly be the portraits, depicting Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Victoria, Queen Anne, Mary I and Mary II, and Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II.
The most famous work in the exhibition is a portrait of the Queen’s namesake, Elizabeth I, painted by an unknown artist. The Armada portrait, on loan from Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire, England, commemorates the sovereign’s 1588 victory over Spain. The UK raised £10 million ($13.6 million) to buy the painting when the descendants of Francis Drake, who commissioned it, sold it in 2016.
“[Armada] is one of the most powerful images of female power ever created,” Sebastian Fahey, chief executive of Sotheby’s, said in a statement.
Photographer Chris Levine has also donated a new portrait of the Queen to the exhibition, which will be sold in aid of the Platinum Jubilee Pageant, the official royal celebration on June 5.
Alongside the exhibition, Sotheby’s will partner with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the Fantasia Orchestra to organize a Jubilee Arts Festival with lectures, debates, children’s workshops and musical and dramatic performances.
Jubilee programming is curated with both British history and the future in mind, in the hope that it will “affirm Britain’s place as one of the most creative places in the planet,” Fahey said. “Sotheby’s is uniquely positioned to do this, with our artistic eclecticism and global reach, bringing together expertise from all our different specialties to showcase creativity in all its forms.”
Sotheby’s festivities will culminate on June 29 with “British Art: The Jubilee Auction”, ranging from Old Masters such as JMW Turner and Thomas Gainsborough, to 20th century figures such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, and contemporary artists such as Banksy and David. Hockney.
See more works from the exhibition below.
“Power and Image: Royal Portraiture and Iconography” and “Aristocratic Tiaras” will be presented at Sotheby’s London, 34-35 New Bond Street, London, UK, from May 28 to June 15, 2022, alongside the Jubilee Arts Festival events.
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