I visited the Marie Antoinette suite at The Ritz yesterday to have a look at The Royal Portraits exhibition.
I also met its artist: the leading miniature portraitist Alexei Maximov who is the first Russian artist in history to have been given permission to portray the royal family members in their official residences.
There I discovered beautiful sketches of members of the royal family from all over Europe. The portraits were so delicately drawn and some of them were achieved in a single sitting. My favourite sketch, of the Queen’s Mother, took only an hour and a half to complete. Her features looked so soft and her image so approachable, it was a wonder to imagine how Maximov managed to capture her spirit in such a short space of time.
The centrepiece of the exhibition are the miniatures which stand in the in their glass cases in the middle of the room. These miniatures were commissioned by the Moscow Kremlin in the 1990s and have a collective worth of an estimated £10 million.
The sketches were preparation for these artistic enamels which involved a painstaking process to create. Each colour application was considered either cold, medium or hot in relation to its time and temperature in the oven: cold being 600 degrees celsius and hot being 1000 degrees celsius – and each colour layer had to be put in and taken out of the oven at least twenty times. Can you imagine how fragile this whole process is? Quite amazing really.
I discussed the individual sketches and enamels with the artist. I pointed out my favourite ones as he told me stories about some of his pieces. It was a real pleasure to hear them.
The public view is running until 1st May and it is open by appointment only. You can call 0207 739 90 96 to arrange.
This is the first time the entire collection has been shown. And afterwards, the Queen will be presented with an original portrait in celebration of her Diamond Jubilee. The gift will then become part of the Royal Collection and will be looked after by the Queen on behalf of the nation. So don’t miss out on this opportunity to view what will become a national treasure whilst you can. It’s a real treat!
For more information on The Royal Portraits exhibition, here is the website.