Royal Collection Trust Announces £37-Million ‘Future Programme’

Posted in museums, on site by Editor on April 7, 2016


Windsor Castle, Upper Ward Quadrangle panoramic view, with the State Entrance shown in the center (Wikimedia Commons: Diliff, 4 November 2006).

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For anyone who has ever been bewildered by the plan and circulation route at Windsor, this is excellent news! The State Apartments will make much more sense with the alignment of the visitor’s entrance and the State Entrance (pictured under the clock in the photo above). The project also serves as a useful reminder that the palace today looks like the ‘perfect’ medieval castle largely because of renovations undertaken by George III and even more so by George IV in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. CH

Press release from The Royal Collection Trust (5 April 2016). . .

The Royal Collection Trust today announced a £37-million investment at Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse to fund a series of projects that will transform the experience of visitors. Collectively known as Future Programme, the projects will deliver significant improvements to the way visitors are welcomed on arrival, interpret the buildings in new ways, create dedicated Learning Centres and open up new spaces to the public. Work will begin on site in 2017 and is scheduled to be completed at the end of 2018. Both palaces will remain open to visitors throughout the development.

Windsor Castle and Holyroodhouse have been royal palaces since the 12th century and have welcomed visitors for hundreds of years. Today they are official residences of Her Majesty The Queen and in full use as the setting for State Visits, Investitures and Garden Parties. One and a half million people visit the palaces each year, enjoying these historic buildings and the great works of art from the Royal Collection.

At Windsor Castle, Future Programme will
• Increase public access to the ground floor of the State Apartments, incorporating the State Entrance into the visit and for the first time opening up the 14th-century Undercroft to the public as the Castle’s first café
• Reinstate the Castle’s Georgian Entrance Hall, creating a proper sense of arrival and linking the current visitor entrance on the North Terrace with the State Entrance on the south side of the Castle
• Introduce new interpretation and a choice of thematic routes through the State Apartments, replacing the current single, linear route
• Create a dedicated Learning Centre to enable more schoolchildren, families and adults to engage with the Palaces and Royal Collection first hand

At the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Future Programme will
• Introduce new interpretation in the State Apartments, exploring the rich history of the Palace, from its foundation by King David I in the 12th century and occupation by Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie, to the role of the Palace today
• Introduce a new Family Room inside the Palace, and restore the interiors of the Abbey Strand buildings, just outside the Palace gates, creating a Learning Centre within them
• Include plans to make more of the Palace’s outside spaces, in partnership with Historic Environment Scotland, including the Abbey, the grounds and Forecourt, re-connecting the Palace to the city

Funded by The Royal Collection Trust from admissions to the official residences of The Queen and associated retail income, Future Programme is part of the continuing investment by the charity in the presentation and interpretation of the royal palaces and the Royal Collection. Future Programme is the most significant investment by The Trust since the creation of The Queen’s Galleries at Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which opened to the public in 2002.

Today’s announcement coincides with the appointment of the architectural practices Purcell and Burd Haward Architects as the Lead Designers for Future Programme at Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse respectively.

Jonathan Marsden, Director, Royal Collection Trust, said, “Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh’s royal palace, are two of the most important historic buildings in Britain and home to some of the greatest works of art. Future Programme represents an important investment to enhance everyone’s enjoyment of the Palaces and the Royal Collection and to deliver the best-possible experience of visiting these royal residences.”

Andrew Clark, Chairman, Purcell, said, “It is a great privilege to be appointed as Lead Designer for Future Programme at Windsor Castle. We are excited to be part of the work which will celebrate this royal residence, improve the presentation of the spectacular collections on display there, and transform the experience of visiting this wonderful historic building for the hundreds of thousands of people who do so each year.”

Catherine Burd, Director, Burd Haward Architects, said, “We are delighted to be appointed Lead Designer for Future Programme at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and to be working with Royal Collection Trust across a number of projects that will enable this hugely important building and the works of art on display there to be better understood and enjoyed by all.”

Sir Neil Cossons OBE, former Chairman, English Heritage and a member of the Master Plan Steering Group for Windsor Castle, said, “Windsor Castle is the most important—and perhaps best-known—secular building in England. Twenty years after the completion of the exemplary restoration work following the near-catastrophic fire in 1992, this new investment will introduce an outstanding programme of improvements to increase everyone’s understanding of the Castle and all that it represents as part of the nation’s history, and their enjoyment of the spectacular works of art from the Royal Collection.”

Ian Rankin OBE, author and a member of the Master Plan Steering Group for the Palace of Holyroodhouse, said, “As an Edinburgh resident and a visitor to the Palace of Holyroodhouse (often in the role of amateur guide for visiting friends), I am delighted that there are to be significant developments with the onus on education and information. This will prove invaluable, I hope, to visitors, no matter how much (or how little) they already know or think they know!”

At Auction | The Kangxi Emperor’s Mandate of Heaven Seal

Posted in Art Market by Editor on April 7, 2016


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At Wednesday’s auction in Hong Kong (Sotheby’s HK0642), the Kangxi Emperor’s Mandate of Heaven seal (shown above) sold for $10.4million and his Yuanjianzhai seal for approximately $5.4million (video coverage is available from the BBC News). The Kangxi Baosou, a catalogue of the Emperor’s seals commissioned by his grandson, the Qianlong Emperor in 1781 did not sell.

From the pre-sale press release (11 March 2016) . . .

This spring Sotheby’s Hong Kong is honoured to present the most important Chinese historical object ever to be offered at auction. Bearing the inscription “Revere Heaven and Serve thy People,” the Seal of the Mandate of Heaven is the largest and most powerful ever carved for the Kangxi Emperor, the greatest and longest reigning monarch of China (reigned 1661–1722). Two other important historic objects of the period will be offered to complement this extraordinary seal: the Yuanjianzhai seal and one of only two existing copies of the personal record of the Kangxi Emperor’s seals, in which the exact impressions of both seals are recorded. All three lots will be offered in a dedicated themed sale titled Kangxi: Emperorship and Power on 6 April 2016 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Nicolas Chow, Deputy Chairman, Sotheby’s Asia, International Head and Chairman, Chinese Works of Art, said, “It is an unprecedented privilege for us to handle such an important historical relic of China’s Imperial past. This seal is emblematic of the Mandate of Heaven, which has legitimised the authority of rulers in China since the dawn of recorded history. This almighty principle was also the single guiding light for the Kangxi Emperor, China’s longest reigning emperor, who is credited for completing the conquest of China, anchoring the Qing dynasty and ushering in a long period of great prosperity and peace. The Kangxi Emperor was the single most powerful person on earth at the time, ruling over a vast Kingdom and over 100 million subjects.”

1458028878-59b0dThe Seal of the Mandate of Heaven is unusual among Qing imperial seals as it testifies to the close correspondence between Kangxi’s philosophical ideals and his deeds as emperor. The seal was so important that during Kangxi’s reign it was at all times kept in the Palace of Ultimate Purity (Qianqinggong), where Emperors entertained and a major venue for their policymaking. His son and grandson the Yongzheng and Qianlong Emperors, together with Kangxi, were the three greatest Emperors of the Qing dynasty, and they all had identical seals carved as they believed that the Imperial motto would bestow authority and blessing onto their reign.

The Mandate of Heaven (tianming) is the philosophical tenet that Heaven granted emperors the right to rule based on their ability to govern and their righteousness and was used throughout the history of China to validate and legitimise the rule of the emperors of China. According to this belief, Heaven will only bestow its mandate to a just and virtuous ruler, the Son of Heaven. Otherwise, the Mandate and thus his right over his kingdom and subjects will be forfeited in favour of someone better qualified. The overthrow of an emperor was often interpreted as the loss of the Mandate of Heaven. The kings of the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BCE) first used the concept of the Mandate of Heaven to legitimise their rule and the overthrow of the earlier Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BCE).

As a non-Han Chinese ethnic ruler leading a dynasty barely established two decades before, Kangxi engaged in a relentless, almost obsessive pursuit of the Mandate of Heaven, working tirelessly to demonstrate his righteousness. He developed political reform to centralise power and maintain the unity of his empire and emphasised both economic and cultural development, driving his country to unprecedented heights. Kangxi built the foundation for the golden age of the Qing dynasty. He undoubtedly discharged his heavenly duty like no other emperor before or after him. Kangxi often expressed his devotion to his subjects, whom he considered the reason for the existence of imperial rule:
“Heaven gave birth to the subjects and then established Emperorship, not simply to bestow exceptional status or fortune on the emperor, but also to entrust him with the responsibility of moral cultivation, so that nobody within the four seas and the nine continents would be deficient in it.”
– [Qing] Xuanye [the Kangxi Emperor], Yuzhiwen ji, vol. 19.

Two other important historic objects of the period will be offered to complement this extraordinary seal, namely the Soapstone ‘Yuanjian Zhai’ Seal and the Kangxi Baosou, the only copy of the complete record of the Emperor’s seals in private hands. It is an extraordinarily fortuitous event to assemble these three exceptional legacies of Kangxi’s Emperorship in this auction.

1458029167-34d43The soapstone seal is carved with the characters of the Yuanjianzhai (‘Studio of Profound Discernment), the Kangxi Emperor’s favourite personal retreat in the Imperial gardens northwest of Beijing, the studio where he cultivated his passion for calligraphy and research into Western science and art. The carving is of superlative quality, and is exceptional for featuring a dragon and a tiger in addition to mystical trigrams, a specific combination for evoking his status as the unsurpassed ruler of heaven and earth. The unusual positioning of the seal text between double dragons on this seal is a feature that was specifically commented on by Jean-François Gerbillon, the famous Jesuit missionary and close confidant of the emperor, when he was invited to inspect the Emperor’s seals in 1690 in the Yangxindian.

Both the Soapstone ‘Yuanjian Zhai’ Seal and Seal of the Mandate of Heaven are also recorded in the Kangxi Baosou, a complete record of the Emperor’s seals commissioned in 1781 as an act of piety by his grandson, the Qianlong Emperor. Only two copies were produced. The one offered in the upcoming sale is the only example in private hands, while the other copy is preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing.