A watercolour depicting the Queen, Prince Albert, the Duchess of Kent and Princess Ada of Hohenlohe-Langenburg with the royal children seated below their dais in the King's Drawing Room, Windsor Castle, watching Lady Macbeth (Mrs Charles Kean) in the sleep-walking scene of Shakespeare's play Macbeth (Act V, sc. ii). Other guests seated. Signed and dated lower left: L. Haghe / 1853
Complaints in the press concerning the Queen's obvious delight in foreign opera and theatre resulted in the institution of annual theatricals performed by the British company of the actor Charles Kean. This depiction of the company's Macbeth in the Rubens Room at Windsor Castle was commissioned by Queen Victoria. The Queen was delighted by the play and attended the London performance on several occasions.
The King's Drawing Room was originally decorated with an elaborate ceiling by Antonio Verrio, which illustrated Charles II driving through the sky in a triumphal car (reflecting the restoration of monarchy). After Jeffry Wyatville remodelled Windsor Castle in the 1820s and 30s, this room was hung primarily with works by Rubens, leading to it being referred to as the Rubens Room into the twentieth century. The paintings documented in this watercolour were hung against a red fabric woven with what appears to be a coat of arms design and include: 'Portrait of Don Roderigo Calderon on Horseback', 'Winter', 'Portrait of the Artist', 'The Holy Family with St Francis' and Studio of Rubens, 'Philip II, King of Spain'. The furniture of the King's Drawing Room/Rubens Room was kept minimal during the early years of Queen Victoria's reign as the space was used for both important ceremonial occasions and leisure activities, such as the staging of plays as shown here.
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