We are continuing our tour of Buckingham Palace during this Jubilee lead-up. Thank you to our tour guide Royal Warrant for providing photos and some beautiful descriptions to help with this post!
If you have been following the British Royals for any time at all, you are familiar with this room without knowing it. It’s a favorite setting for portraits, and you will be amazed at how much of the room you have already glimpsed in the background of various paintings.
Competed by Queen Victoria in 1850, the Yellow Drawing Room was named for the yellow silk on its walls. The yellow silk is restricted to curtains and chairs now, for Queen Mary had it hung with Chinese wallpaper in the 1920s. This paper was found in the Palace storage rooms and was originally from George IV’s Royal Pavilion’s Saloon, Brighton.
The pagoda, curtain pole, and wallpaper are all from Brighton. The pagoda is topped with decorative bells and the ever-present dragon. Queen Mary had the top scalloped border added to the wallpaper.
This exquisite gilt-bronze dragon and sunflower elements on the fireplace are simply over-the-top.
This porcelain lion is munching on ormolu foliage and only adds to the whimsy of the overall effect. The amazing chairs were made in 1817 and have delicate cutwork and sublime decorative touches. It’s difficult to imagine sitting on a chair like this.
The fireplace has a set of decorative accessories, notably the double Chinese vases which are joined with gilt floral elements. They are topped by massive candelabras made with dragons and painted figures of Chinese court officials standing in sunflowers holding gilded sea creatures.
The centerpiece is a fantastic clock that is beyond description. It’s a feast for the eyes!
Here is a closer view of the Chinese figure and sea creature. And here is another gilded dragon.
There is another gilded sea creature slithering along the base of the fireplace. It’s not difficult to imagine royal toddlers enthralled with something this fun to play with. I would think that a few young princesses wanted to play dolls with these elaborate statues.
This dragon is busy climbing a steel pole on the side of the fireplace. The face of this Chinese court lady is very interesting and the artwork used on her costume is lovely.
Unveiled three days before their wedding, this portrait by Bryan Organ showed a casual Diana posed against the formality of the Yellow Drawing Room. In August 1981 the portrait was vandalized by a troubled man who claimed to be destroying it “for Ireland”. The portrait was put back on display at the National Portrait Gallery, protected by plastic film. It was originally conceived as a partner to a portrait of Prince Charles.
In 1996 the Queen was painted in the room to commemorate her 80th birthday. The portrait was done by now-disgraced painter Rolf Harris.
In 1997, Justin Mortimer finished his portrait depicting Queen Elizabeth “…set against an acidic yellow background with her head floating away from her body” The yellow background references the Yellow Drawing Room in an abstract manner. Mortimer wanted to strip away the trappings of monarchy and depict the chaotic aura surrounding the family in the wake of Princess Diana’s death.
Chris Levine, the light artist, took 10,000 images in the Yellow Drawing Room of Queen Elizabeth II over two sittings to create his 2004 hologram, Equanimity. This was the first 3D holographic portrait of the Queen.
In 2011 Darrin Baker painted the Queen to mark the 90th anniversary of the Royal British Legion. The Queen’s watch is set at 11am, the time on Remembrance Day when a minute’s silence is held.
The Duke of Edinburgh was painted by Jemma Phipps in 2012. The setting is the Yellow Drawing Room, although many of the distinctive elements of the room have been grayed out.
Is this a good room for portraits? Let us know your thoughts!