Kings, Queens and Courtiers
24 January – 5 August 2017
Monarchs and courtiers of the 18th and 19th centuries were of abiding interest to David Roche – and this exhibition reflects his passion for selecting items of exceptional quality to add to his collection.
David considered that the monarchy was “an endangered species and often regarded as the foe of all they rule” – especially after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. It will come as no surprise to learn that David was a staunch monarchist, and thought that “the Republican Movement should restrict itself to that pub in Ireland”. He thought that to be born a royal would be “a life on a tightrope above a league of biographers and intimate strangers”.
The exhibition on display was curated by our Senior Curator, Robert Reason. His inimitable focus is one that David Roche would be very happy to see. Royalty provided David with endless opportunities to explore their hierarchy together with the accompanying intrigue and treachery of their lives. He was fascinated with the common scenario in history of “hero to zero”.
Developed over a lifetime of collecting, David mainly focused on the royal and aristocratic households of Germany, Britain, France and Russia. The “Who’s Who” of European royalty represented in the Roche Collection includes pieces related to:
• Frederick The Great
• Frederick William III of Prussia
• Therese, Queen Consort of Bavaria
• Leopold I, King of the Belgians
• King Wilhelm II of Wurttemberg
• Francis II, Emperor of Austria
• Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen of Prussia
• Desiree Clary, Queen of Sweden
• Prince Regent, later King George IV
• Louis XIV
• Marie Adelaide of Savoy
• Duke D’Orleans, the French royal house of Bourbon
• Marie Leczinksa
• Queen Marie Antoinette
• Louis XVIII
• Napoleon Bonaparte
• Catherine the Great
• Catherine the Great’s lover, Prince Orlov
• Tsar Paul I
• Tsar Alexander
• Tsar Nicholas I
• Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich
David bid on portraits and the objects made for royalty and aristocracy, or owned by them – sometimes, but not always, successfully on the fall of the gavel. Provenance to him was essential, especially at those auctions of the 20th century, related to the estates of the infamous American, Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, and the American “Royal”, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. Owning such rare objects gave David “pride of ownership”, a term he often used.
David’s acquisitions are visual reminders of the marvellous palaces, chateaux and country houses that he visited throughout his life. Royal pursuits, be it hunting or horse racing, were all of great interest to David, but at a distance. He enjoyed keeping up to date with the current royals through Hello! and Country Life (popular magazines from the U.K.), Paris Match, and Hola! (from Spain).
In this exhibition there are paintings of royal beauties of Europe, be they queens, consorts or courtiers; exquisite porcelain service plates that once adorned the banquet tables of the crowned heads of Europe; unique personal items, including the private hand seal of Tsar Alexander I; Prince Ernst August of Hanover’s clock and a Faberge parasol handle owned by Queen Anne of Romania.
We hope you enjoy Kings, Queens and Courtiers in Gallery 3 as part of your tour of The David Roche Foundation House Museum in 2017.