Page last updated at 17:14 GMT, Friday, 12 March 2010

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert art shown in London

F. X. Winterhalter, The First of May 1851, 1851. The Royal Collection  2010 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
More than 400 pieces will be on display at the exhibition

A new exhibition will showcase for the first time the art that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert collected and presented to each other.

The display at Buckingham Palace reveals the couple's enthusiasm for paintings, sculptures and jewellery.

The 400-piece royal collection is expected to "challenge attitudes towards the monarch," its curator said.

Jonathan Marsden, lead curator for Art and Love, said: "It was really only intended for Albert's eyes."

'Secret picture'

He added: "The Queen does not exactly look like a queen, that's how he knew her - not the rest of the realm."

He added: "We think, 'who were these people?', because she doesn't look like the queen we know, she was a party girl when she was in her 20s and 30s."

He preferred things that took him to a higher place of thinking, while she liked visual satisfaction
Jonathan Marsden, lead curator, Art & Love

Victoria's most glamorous surviving dress, worn at a Buckingham Palace ball in 1851, is part of the exhibition.

Mr Marsden who takes over from Sir Hugh Roberts as director of the Royal Collection next month said: "This wasn't exactly normal - this was a very elaborate costume gown.

"She would be out dancing all the time, I think what really got her going was music, dancing the theatre, opera."

One of the highlights of the exhibition is the rarely-displayed painting, known as "The Secret Picture" by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, which Victoria commissioned in 1843 as a surprise present for Albert's 24th birthday.

The oval image shows the Queen in what many Victorians would have described as a sensual pose, with a bare neck and her long hair flowing freely.

Those behind the exhibition said they hoped it would give members of the public an insight into the royal couple's relationship and their passion for art.

Paintings and sculptures show the nude female form and private artwork shared between Victoria and her husband.

The curator said the royal couple had distinct tastes, with Victoria attracted to works which stimulated the senses, while Albert was more cerebral and preferred art that appealed to his intellect.

"He preferred things that took him to a higher place of thinking, while she liked visual satisfaction," said Mr Marsden.

The exhibition, Victoria and Albert: Art and Love, will open to the public on 19 March and runs until the end of October.

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