Saturday - 02 August 2014

Views from a unique Victorian honeymoon

10 April 2012Written by Tom Derbyshire

IN February we revealed how Queen Victoria was an accomplished artist, but now her daughter’s skills have been highlighted by a Surrey auction.

ATG No 2027 covered a Dominic Winter sale from November 25 in which six etchings by the UK's longest-serving monarch, dating from 1831-45, made £6600.

They all depicted her children, but on March 21-22 at Ewbank Clarke Gammon Wellers in Send Marsh, near Woking, Surrey, the focus was on an album of paintings and drawings created by her sixth child, Princess Louise (1848-1939).

It sold to a London dealer in the room after a lengthy bidding battle for £27,000 against an estimate of £6000-10,000. The underbidder was another London dealer on the phone.

The album had been hidden for years in a house in Hampshire and is a long-lost record of places visited on Princess Louise's 1871-72 honeymoon in Europe and the Scottish Highlands following her marriage to the Marquis of Lorne, later Duke of Argyll.

Auctioneer Chris Ewbank compared the handwritten annotations on many of the 74 watercolours, ink sketches and pencil drawings with details in the most recent biography of the princess and concluded they must have been drawn and painted as the couple travelled.

"Although we have no proof, we believe the album may have been included in the Christie's auction of the contents of Bagshot Park, now the home of Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, and his wife Sophie, in 1942 following the death of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, Princess Louise's brother," he said.

"Since then it had been in the possession of our vendor's family and for the last 12 years had been hidden away in storage.

"The British historian Jehanne Wake wrote a new biography of Princess Louise in 1988 which gives a great deal of previously unpublished details, including a note of the places she visited on her honeymoon, so it was relatively straightforward to match the annotated drawings, making the discovery of the album even more exciting."

Talented Artist

Mr Ewbank added that Louise was regarded as "the most artistically talented of Queen Victoria's daughters".

"As well as being an able actress, pianist and dancer, she was a prolific artist and sculptress and this certainly shows in the album pictures. However, very few paintings by her have been on the open market in recent times," he said.

The earliest sketches are from Germany and dated April 14, 1871.

Other pictures in the album date from later in the 1870s and '80s, including some from Marienbad, now in the Czech Republic, in August 1877, and watercolours from Canada which would have been painted when her husband was Governor General from 1878-1883.

A handwritten frontispiece to the album penned by Princess Louise reads:

In nature's presence many a wretch

Proclaimed aloud his feelings gush;

When silent I with hasty sketch

Would paint her language with my brush

Thus something of the joy she gave

For other days I tried to save;

And make the scenes I gathered here

If not to art to memory dear

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