Extraordinary Events: Charles 1 Private View at the Royal Academy

Tuesday 30th January 2018

Just incredible: ‘Thank you for lending the pictures,’ Royston said to Lady Sarah. Who was momentarily non-plussed then lit up with full Royal graciousness just like her Aunt. The Throne was that close. Lady Helen was there also, in a good tweed coat, approaching Lady Sarah, as cousins, by surprise from behind.

Of course, Royston was to attend the higher Opening later in the week – but if this one was good enough for Lady Sarah and Lady Helen and Grayson Perry (who had a new Marge Proops look, by the way). It was good enough also for Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures, who suddenly conceived the whole exhib while walking with the President in Shropshire (this time the Queen consented to lend her pictures). Also for a former Royal Academy head who was just a little miffed the exhib wasn’t his. ‘We did Van Dyck,’ he said crossly. He had to sit down.

We had some other sensational people coups. But would you believe it, we actually looked at the pictures. We were there for over 3 hours – looking at the pictures. With the result that we missed the dumbed-down cauliflower florets for dipping in the Members Room and no wine.

One is much preoccupied, looking at these pictures, with Charles 1. His art collection is about 50 percent pictures of himself. He looks the same when painted by different artists, so it’s a fair assumption that’s what he looked like. He doesn’t look very nice nor very impressive really – a difficult petulant jaw. The air of a small man with a shoulder chip. You can see now how he became what he afterwards became – i.e. without a head. Yet these are great paintings. It’s the same with Velasquez of which there is one – a perfectly extraordinary portrait of the Spanish king. But why didn’t they get flatterers in to depict them as gorgeous? Why didn’t they have Norman Parkinson? How did they know they had to seen as they were if they wanted to be in great art? One idea is Charles was too vain to notice. But I don’t believe it. How did he know he had to have Van Dyck and Rubens?

The other thing is there’s only one work by an English artist. Royston explained that there had been no English art since the Reformation. It was all destroyed. Charles 1 brought the European Renaissance to England and paved the way for Gainsborough, Reynolds etc in the next century. So Charles’s Titians are back from the Prada and the Louvre. All his riveting small portraits by Holbein and Durer of Renaissance/Reformation men – intense, intent, austere but humane. Odd choices for a king who clung on sulkily to the outdated notion of the Divine Right of Kings.

Speaking of which, we met the Svengali of Jeremy Corbyn. Yes, at school with Royston. That’s how it works, the British Establishment. Not the later Committees and Trusteeships, but school and uni. ‘I’m not with you on all you’re doing,’ Royston told him. Understatement of the century. ‘I suppose you think the Queen’s pictures should be nationalised.’ The Svengali re-assured: ‘Abolishing the Monarchy is not a priority.’ Not a Priority! I ask you. Hardly reassuring when you think about it. On the other hand, they’ll be sucked in. He didn’t seem to know anybody at the PV. But why was he there at all? At such a privileged event? With Royal pictures? Hoping to know people presum … and rise up.

The Head of the Garden Museum was divine as always. He’d brought a godson with him who acquired Grayson Perry’s signature. What about the Head of the V&A? Royston arranged for the Head of the Garden Museum and the Head of the V&A to lunch. ‘Can’t you come back and save our Nation?’ I begged the Head of the V&A, who used to be in politics. Generally he was a bit worried and seemed terribly young to me but still inspired confidence. He showed the burden of power as well as the glory which is true leadership.

Royston made a point of addressing the other black people present: one was a TV producer but the others were mostly room attendants stood in the doorways. One was from Jamaica, like Royston, but they didn’t discuss picnic spots. ‘It’s all English,’ the Jamaican room attendant proclaimed triumphantly of the exhib. Which it wasn’t really but one knew what he meant.

Charles 1 on Horseback by Van Dyck

Charles 1 on Horseback by Van Dyck

Charles 1 on Horseback: Which do you Prefer?

Charles 1 on Horseback: Which do you Prefer?

Spanish King by Velasquez: So Bizarre and Bare

Spanish King by Velasquez: So Bizarre and Bare

My Fav Room: the Small, Fine Portraits

My Fav Room: the Small, Fine Portraits

One of the Small, Fine Portraits

One of the Small, Fine Portraits

This is a King: I've Forgotten Whom By. Maybe Velasquez also

This is a King: I’ve Forgotten Whom By

Divine Holbein

Divine Holbein

Royston Liked This the Best: the Oldest Item in the Exhib from Classical Times

Royston Liked This the Best: the Oldest Item in the Exhib from Classical Times

The Crouching Venus

The Crouching Venus

Van Dyck Self-Portrait Royston Saved for the Nation

Van Dyck Self-Portrait Royston Saved for the Nation

Charles 11, as He Later Became

Charles 11, as He Later Became

Exquisite

Exquisite

Titian The Last Supper

Titian The Last Supper

Titian: A Victory

Titian: A Victory

Grayson Perry: The Clucks

Grayson Perry: The Clucks

 

 

 

Posted Wednesday, January 31, 2018 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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