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Steamy Portrait of Queen Victoria - Tales from History
1196    Dibyendu Banerjee    23/07/2019

This is the story of a steamy portrait of Queen Victoria.

Despite the huge social restrictions that prevailed during the reign of Queen Victoria, Her Majesty posed for a steamy and racy portrait that had been kept behind the closed doors of Windsor Castle for more than a century.

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The reign of Queen Victoria is often linked with certain strict social conventions, intricate etiquette, and conservative values. She gave her name to a new age in England, known as the Victorian Age, during which the legs of tables, chairs and even pianos were covered. Even, doctors were not allowed to examine female patients, instead used dolls on which women demurely pointed to the area of their symptoms. During those days, physical love was never discussed publicly, a premium was placed on chastity and many young couples entered marriage in a state of near-ignorance about sex. 

History says, Queen Victoria passionately loved her husband, Prince Albert, from their marriage in 1839 until his death in 1861.The royal couple had a famously romantic relationship. Thus, it is not surprising that she would like to give him a special gift on his birthday. In fact, six years into her reign, the 24-year-old Victoria commissioned a steamy portrait, painted by Franz Xaver Winterhalter in 1843, which she gifted to her beloved husband on his 24th birthday.

Queen Victoria in royal attire
Queen Victoria in royal attire

Judging from the Victorian standard, the portrait was extremely alluring and clearly intended as a loving expression. The painting depicts the queen with her hair coming undone from her chignon in a cascade over her bare shoulders. The dreamy look in her eyes makes her look languid and lovesick. The overall look is truly a rare thing for a 19th century woman. It becomes a matter of more amazement, when one realises that the lovely young woman languorously baring her shoulders and seems to be waiting eagerly for her beloved, is none other than Queen Victoria. Though by Victorian standards, it was really rather daring, Prince Albert was said to particularly like the way her hair, half released from its traditional knot, cascaded down her back. In her journals, Victoria referred to the painting as Prince Albert's favourite and called it the 'secret painting'.

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However, it was kept in a private room at Windsor Castle, hidden from the view of others. For more than 130 years the painting was never on display and its existence was not revealed till recently, when it was displayed for the public at Buckingham Palace, along with 400 paintings, drawings, photographs, drawings and sculptures, evidencing the Queen's enthusiasm for art.

By, Franz Xaver Winterhalter 1843
By, Franz Xaver Winterhalter 1843
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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