Monday, August 25, 2014



Queen Victoria bought her first picture by Johann Michael Wittmer in 1847. It was the Ossian, above, presented to Albert as a gift on the Queen's own birthday.

Unlike Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Wittmer was not on call at the palace for job-work. Wittmer's independent creations were purchased on the open market.

Seemingly, they represented the absolute ideal of easel-painting according to the standards and tastes of high Victorianism. Albert himself acquired the fantasy-scene below, purporting to depict the artist Raphael drawing on a barrel-end. He also bought Wittmer's Aesop, at bottom.

Raphael's first sketch of the 'Madonna della Sedia'


Many important Dutch and Italian paintings from past centuries came down to Queen Victoria by inheritance. Most famously, Charles I had assembled a spectacular collection. It had to some extent been plundered in the 1650s after the King's execution, yet masterpieces in ample numbers remained. Somehow or other though, genuine Renaissance/Baroque art was very frequently less pleasing to the eyes of the 19th century than newly-made Renaissance/Baroque pastiches.