Osborne House: Prince Albert's Dressing Room

James Roberts (c.1800-67)

Osborne House: Prince Albert's Dressing Room


Watercolour and bodycolour with touches of gum arabic over pencil

24.3 x 36.8 cm

Commissioned by Queen Victoria (£9); left royal ownership in early twentieth century; Mrs N. Kay; Hove Auction Rooms, 16 May 1986; James MacKinnon; from whom bought by HM The Queen, September 1986

Between 1845 and 1847 Ludwig Gruner acquired twenty-seven early Italian pictures for Prince Albert.  Queen Victoria and Prince Albert purchased the Osborne estate on the Isle of Wight in 1845 with the intention of establishing there a family home by the sea with more privacy and freedom from ceremonial life than could ever have been provided by George IV's Indo-Chinese extravaganza at Brighton. Work on a new house, designed by Prince Albert, started immediately. The iron-framed and cement-rendered three-storey Pavilion for the royal family, constructed by the successful London master builder Thomas Cubitt, was completed fifteen months later, in September 1846. Designs for the decoration of the principal rooms were provided by Ludwig Gruner, the Prince's artistic adviser, and plain mahogany furniture was supplied by Thomas Dowbiggin and Holland & Sons of Mount Street, London. The adjoining Main and Household Wings, to the east of the Pavilion, were completed in 1851 and the Durbar Wing, the last addition to the house, was built in 1890-1.

Prince Albert's suite, adjoining that of the Queen, lay on the first floor of the Pavilion. His Dressing Room, in the north-west corner, looked out over the garden towards the Solent, a view that reminded him on sunny days of the Bay of Naples. In this plainly painted and simply detailed room the Prince assembled a major part of his pioneering collection of early Italian paintings, some of which had been acquired with Gruner's assistance. The group included both the Duccio triptych and the Daddi panel, although neither is visible in this view.

After Queen Victoria's death, Edward VII gave the house and estate to the nation (the contents were excluded from the gift) and part of the house was until recently used as a convalescent home. Her Majesty The Queen sanctioned the opening to the public of Queen Victoria's and Prince Albert's private rooms for the first time in 1954 and since then the original decorative schemes and room arrangements have been reinstated in many of the rooms that are open to the public, most recently the Durbar Room, under the direction of English Heritage.

Signed, dated and inscribed Osborne / J. Roberts / Mar 1851

RL 26224

Text adapted from Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, London, 2010