Tell your friends
From the Kremlin with Love
by Alex Wood
A series of portraits of Royal Families from across Europe commissioned by the Kremlin are about to be revealed in London for the first time.
The collection includes life drawings and enamel miniature portraits that were commissioned by the Moscow Kremlin Museums in the early 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union.
The images feature the British Queen, Queen Mother and Royal Families of Norway, The Netherlands and Norway, who agreed to sit for Russian artist Alexei Maximov.
It was the first time the Russian Kremlin had ever commissioned the portrait of a British monarch.
The collection of enamel miniatures will form the centrepiece of The Royal Portraits, an exhibition in March that coincides with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Nine enamel miniatures of white gold, framed with diamonds, together with more than 50 photographs of the sittings will be on display.
Some of the pieces have been on display in London before, but it’ll be the first time that the collection as a whole has appeared on British soil.
Click through the slides to see some of the exclusive images.
Europe's Royal Families - through the eyes of the Kremlin
Queen Elizabeth II Continue Reading
The British Queen Mother, Clarence House, London, 1992.
Princess Anne, Buckingham Palace, London, 1992.
Russian Fascination with Monarchy
Art experts predict the entire collection – which also features portraits of the Dutch and Norwegian Royal Families – will fetch a “conservative minimum” of £10million.
But why is there so much interest in old portraits of some of the most recognisable faces in the world?
The collection reveals little know facts and hints about the characters of the British Royal family.
“There’s a story behind every piece. The Queen Mother was so touched by the portrait of her that she even signed and dated it after the session finished, showed Alexei Maximov around Clarence House and spontaneously threw a reception party in his honour at her residency.”
The sittings took place in London, Oslo and The Hague between 1992 and 1999 and were the result of Maximov’s fascination with the European monarchy.
Following her sitting with Maximov, the Queen Mother reportedly declared: “I suggest we drink vodka with the Russian artist.”
17th Century Aesthetic
“My idea was to depict the reigning monarchs of the ‘Old World’ and closest members of their families through the medium of enamel miniature using techniques known from the 17th century, giving a portrait a striking historical dimension” Maximov said.
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Palace Huis ten Bosch, The Hague, 1994.
The sittings in London were orchestrated by the Moscow Kremlin Museums with support from the former director of the Royal Collection, Sir Geoffrey de Bellaigue.
The collection includes portraits of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway.
have your say
see more on britain and russia
Britain's vote explained
Confused by democracy in the UK? Adam Westbrook gives his take on some of the issues behind Britain's referendum on voting systems.
From Russia with Love
Sit back and enjoy this snapshot of contemporary Russian-Uzbek culture from Tashkent.
Britain Braces for Austerity
We asked the fish market traders of East London what they thought the upcoming elections would bring to Britain 2011
Occupy London's Sister Ruth
In this special report, we profile one unusual member of the Occupy London protest on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral.