See Queen Victoria’s collection Japanese screen paintings on display in London

Her Majesty Queen Victoria received them from the Japanese Shogun (military leader) in 1860. And since then, they went unseen.

Thought not to have survived to the present day, they’ve been rediscovered in the Royal Collection and this year in 2022, the screens will go on public display next month for the first time since they arrived at the British Court 162 years ago. They will form part of Japan: Courts and Culture, the first exhibition to bring together the Royal Collection’s spectacular holdings of Japanese works of art, opening at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace on Friday, 8 April.

What’s their story?

Well, the screen paintings, which depict the changing seasons in exquisite detail, formed part of the first diplomatic gift between Japan and Britain in almost 250 years. They were sent by Sh?gun Tokugawa Iemochi shortly after Japan’s dramatic re-opening to the West, following more than two centuries of deliberate isolation.

After some extensive conservation work following the discovery, there’s been fascinating detail revealed about the screens’ history, including how they were hastily produced after a dramatic fire in Tokyo destroyed the original versions, and how wear and tear was patched up at Windsor Castle in the 19th century using fragments of Victorian railway timetables.

But that’s just the beginning! For the whole story and to see them for yourself, head to the Royal Collection Trust’s website and book a ticket now

Japan: Courts and Culture is at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 8 April 2022 – 26 February 2023

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