Kings, Queens & Courtiers

Adelaide, South Australia: The David Roche Foundation is opening a significant exhibition on Kings, Queens & Courtiers from the Roche collection. Monarchs and aristocrats 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. David was a staunch monarchist, although he thought that to be born a royal would be “a life on a tightrope above a league of biographers and intimate strangers”.

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 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 Leczinska, Queen of France; Queen Marie Antoinette; Louis XVIII; Napoleon Bonaparte; Catherine the Great of Russia; Catherine the Great’s lover, Prince Orlov; Tsar Paul I; Tsar Alexander; Tsar Nicholas I; Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich.

The exhibition has been curated by Senior Curator, Robert Reason. Royalty provided David with endless opportunities to explore their hierarchy, together with the accompanying intrigue and treachery of their lives.

David bid on portraits and decorative objects made for royalty and aristocracy, or owned by them, and was often successful on the fall of the gavel. Provenance to him was essential and owning such rare objects gave David “pride of ownership”, a term he often used. His acquisitions were visual reminders of the marvellous palaces, chateaux and country houses that he visited throughout his life.

In this exhibition there are paintings by leading European portrait artists – Pierre Gobert, Joseph Stieler, Robert Lefevre, Jean-Baptiste Santerre and English painters John Russell and George Dawe; exquisite Worcester and Meissen 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 ‘Gossip’ clock; a Faberge parasol handle owned by Queen Anne of Romania; and items belonging to Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington.

Kings, Queens & Courtiers, consists of over eighty items. Those who gained public adoration are also remembered through commemorative objects and memento moris. Remote as monarchical absolutism is from Australia, this exhibition conjures up something of the social and political times of 18th-and 19th-century Europe.

Kings, Queens & Courtiers is open until July and can be viewed as part of the guided tour of The David Roche Foundation House Museum. Admission is by pre-booked guided tour only through

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