Harley Gallery North Nottinghamshire Courtyard

Historic Coronation Treasures on Show at the Harley Foundation, Welbeck

The Harley Foundation will reveal some of its treasures from historical coronations in its Nottinghamshire museum this April.

From 25 April until 2 July 2023, the iconic ‘Coronation Miniature’ of Elizabeth I will go on display in the Harley Foundation’s award-winning museum. This museum is dedicated to showing the historic Portland Collection of art, built up by the Dukes of Portland and their families over 400 years – including many works with royal connections.

This aristocratic family has been close to the Royal family for many generations, and the collection includes beautiful art and objects connected to monarchs including Charles I and Charles II, William III and Mary II, and Edward VII and George VI.

The Coronation Miniature was painted by Nicholas Hilliard, who is recognised as one of the most important miniature painters of all time. The painting shows the Queen at her coronation as a young woman, aged just 25, with pale, unblemished skin and flowing golden hair.

In fact, it was painted late in her reign, c. 1600, when the Queen was in her 60s. Here, Elizabeth could be considered a symbol of the English Crown, timeless in her glittering glory. Or perhaps it is a religious reference – an image of the Virgin Queen. One of her advisors may have commissioned it to show the older Elizabeth as still at the height of her powers, and so prevent people from looking ahead to her successor.

Elizabethan miniatures were rich in symbols, ambiguity, and coded messages. Perhaps this miniature was intended to reference all the above – an image which could be all things to all people.

Lisa Gee, Director of the Harley Foundation, said:

“The Coronation Miniature is a fascinating painting and an intriguing piece of PR. Throughout history, the Royal image has been carefully crafted and controlled. While this famous image speaks of politics and power, the pageantry and symbolism at the coronation of King Charles III suggests a far more personal language.”

The Coronation Miniature gives a fascinating context to the Coronation of King Charles III, which the Palace has said will ‘reflect the Monarch’s role today and look towards the future, while being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry.’

Also on show at the Harley Foundation is Queen Mary II’s coronation ring. This ruby ring was a personal choice for Mary as it was one of the first gifts given to her by her husband William when they married. She wrote, ‘being the first thing he gave me, I have ever had a particular esteem for it.’

These works are on show in ‘Unseen Treasures of The Portland Collection’ a major new historic art exhibition at The Harley Foundation in Nottinghamshire. Artworks in the free entry exhibition include a drawing by Michelangelo and Van Dyck’s portrait of Charles II when a young boy. A highlight of the exhibition is a picture gallery stacked with Tudor and Jacobean portraits.

The Coronation Miniature will be on show 25 April until 2 July 2023.

‘Unseen Treasures of The Portland Collection’ is sponsored by Bonhams.

– Hilliard’s coronation miniature of Elizabeth I is on show at The Harley Foundation, North Nottinghamshire, 25 April until 2 July 2023.

– The exhibition is free to enter and there is a large, free car park. The Museum is open Tuesday – Sunday. Please check www.harleyfoundation.org.uk for opening times.

– The Harley Foundation is on the Welbeck estate, on the A60 south of Worksop. It is 15 minutes from both the A1 and M1.

– The Coronation Miniature will be shown with the ‘Unseen Treasures of the Portland Collection’ exhibition, which is sponsored by Bonhams.

Posted on 19 April 2023

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