Royal Family opens doors to share Dutch masterpieces with the public

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The Independent Online

A collection of Dutch masterpieces has been admired for centuries for their "subtle light effects and meticulous finish". Unfortunately, such an experience was only available to members of the Royal Family, until yesterday.

A collection of Dutch masterpieces has been admired for centuries for their "subtle light effects and meticulous finish". Unfortunately, such an experience was only available to members of the Royal Family, until yesterday.

Now the pleasure of viewing of at least four paintings held in trust for the nation by the Queen can be shared following the opening of a new exhibition of works from the Royal Collection. More than 50 paintings by the masters of Dutch 17th-century art, including Vermeer and Rembrandt, went on display at Holyrood House in Edinburgh yesterday as part of an initiative to exhibit more of the world's largest assemblage of art in private hands.

The exhibition, which moves to London next year, has reopened the debate about public access to the 500,000-item Royal Collection. The treasure trove is estimated to be worth up to £13bn and includes pieces regarded as some of the world's greatest works of art.

Despite the opening two years ago of a £20m gallery at Buckingham Palace, just 0.1 per cent of the art is ever on display. A spokeswoman for the Royal Collection said: "We have two major exhibition spaces available to us at Buckingham Palace and at Holyrood. It allows us to bring together some of the work that is held in the royal palaces."

The exhibition, Enchanting the Eye, is expected to attract thousands of visitors following renewed interest in Vermeer generated by the success of the film Girl With a Pearl Earring, inspired by the painter's portrait of the same name.

The Vermeer painting on show at Holyrood, A Lady at the Virginals, is one of only 34 known surviving works by the painter. Other attractions include Rembrandt's Christ and St Mary, portraits by Frans Hals and landscapes by Aelbert Cuyp.

But critics said despite making progress on opening up its treasures, the Royal Collection could do more to maximise its audience. David Lee, the art critic and editor of Jackdaw magazine, said: " The Triumph of Caesar, by Mantegna would be far better hanging in the National Gallery rather than in the corridors of Hampton Court."

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