Gardens and paintings, two things that I love; so a combination of the two is bound to be a winner. Painting Paradise starts with an exquisite sixteenth century Persian miniature entitled Seven Couples in a Garden. The picture shows lovebirds ensconced in a garden complete with an octagonal pool and nightingales serenading them from the boughs of a plane tree. From there we leap to Henry VIII and what is important is not the people but the garden of Whitehall Palace glimpsed in the background, it is the first time that an English garden was depicted in art. Next door to Henry and his garden is a copy of the first known gardening manual and I like to think of him sitting down of an evening flicking through its pages seeking inspiration.
Fabergé made eggs, we all know that. It turns out that he also created flowers using enamel, precious stones and metal. If I could have taken one thing home with me it would be his cornflower and oats, the Queen has quite a collection of Fabergé blooms so I am sure that she wouldn’t miss one of them.
One wall of the gallery tells the story of neighbourly one-upmanship and a Royal disposition for garden design on a grand scale. In one painting we see a magnificent water feature at Bushy Park being shown by its owner Lord Halifax to his neighbour, the future George II. Next door is an image of the mile long canal, lined with a double avenue of lime trees constructed on the orders of Charles II at Hampton Court. Barely 40 years later we see Hampton Court has a new wing, a maze, several miles of small box lined beds and the canal is much reduced in size.
The Queen’s Gallery has three exhibitions a year that draw heavily on the Royal Collections. I’ve never seen the rooms packed which is a shame: the same, however, cannot be said of the shop. Even though coachloads of tourists descend for the chance to buy classy royal souvenirs, it’s a pity that more of them don’t venture in to see the pictures. The Queen may have a shop but she doesn’t have a tearoom and the area around the Palace is strangely devoid of the glossier type of coffee shop but La Signore Snack Bar in Palace Street offers fine coffee (but avoid the cakes) in a small retro setting.
PAINTING PARADISE: THE ART OF THE GARDEN 20 March – 11 October 2015
Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London, SW1A 1AA
2 January – 24 July 2015 Open daily 10:00-17:30
25 July – 27 September 2015 Open daily 09:30-17:30
28 September – 31 December 2015 Open daily 10:00-17:30
Closed: 12 October – 12 November 2015
Admission including an audio tour: Adult £10.00, Over 60/Student £9.20, Under 17/Disabled £5.20, Under 5 Free, Family (2 adults, 3 under 17s) £25.20.
All tickets can be converted into 1 year passes if you have them stamped at the end of your visit.
Combination tickets to include the Royal Mews are also available.