'Cameron's royal gaffe on the Queen's Van Dyck'

September 30 2014

Image of 'Cameron's royal gaffe on the Queen's Van Dyck'

Picture: Evening Standard

There's a story in the London Evening Standard today, which states that the David Cameron, made 'a gaffe' in revealing details of a conversation with the Queen at Chequers, the UK Prime Minister's country retreat. Says the Standard:

On Monday last week, Mr Cameron invited some 20 MPs to his country retreat, including some of his fiercest critics, to thrash out a plan for “English votes for English laws” following the referendum.

During a tour, he showed them Anthony van Dyck’s painting A Family Group, and recounted a conversation that took place when the Queen and Prince Philip made a visit to Chequers in February — their first in almost two decades.

According to Mr Cameron, Her Majesty commented that she had the original of the painting at Windsor Castle. But the Premier then told how, in a toe-curlingly awkward moment, the curator at Chequers interjected to correct the Queen, pointing out the version she was looking at was the original and that her painting at Windsor was the copy.

While the story delighted guests, it appears to once again breach protocol which demands private conversations with the Queen are not discussed.

Which is all very amusing, except for the fact that the Queen (who knows her art) was absolutely right. The two group portraits by Van Dyck that would match the description given here of 'A Family Group' are the so-called 'Great Piece' of Charles I and Henrietta Maria with Charles II and Princess Mary and The Five Eldest Children of Charles I, and both are in the Royal Collection. Chequers has a copy of part of the former (with just Henrietta Maria and Princess Mary) and a full-scale copy of the latter. These are both listed in the 2004 Van Dyck catalogue raisonné as copies.

You can see the Chequers copies on Your Paintings here and here. For some reason, the Your Paintings site incorrectly describes the portrait of Henrietta Maria and Princess Mary as by 'Van Dyck'.

If the curator at Chequers really did not know that Van Dyck's original was indeed in the Royal Collection, they should be sent to the Tower. 

There are two genuine Van Dycks at Chequers, small head and shoulders portraits of Charles I and Henrietta Maria, which you can see on Your Paintings here and here

Update - AHN's reaction to the Standard story has been picked up by the media, including the Telegraph here, the Express here and The Times here. But the PM has today given a barnstorming conference speech, with tax cuts to boot, so this Van Dyck business will be very swiftly forgotten. 

Update II - a reader writes:

Would that Her Majesty still had the power to send a curator to The Tower and have a PM (who made him a Premier) exiled (to Scotland) for indiscretion.

Update III - a reader adds:

The Cameron Van Dyke story puts one in mind of Alan Bennett's "A Question of Attribution."  Her Majesty likes facts.

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.