sir edwin landseer

Queen Victoria’s etchings

Prince Albert introduced Queen Victoria to the practice of etching soon after their marriage on 10 February 1840. They etched frequently for about four years and often on the same plates – the Queen producing 62 and the Prince 25. The first etching by the Queen was a copy of a drawing of a head by the Florentine artist Stefano della Bella.

Both Sir George Hayter and Sir Edwin Landseer taught the royal couple how to etch. Queen Victoria wrote in her journal on 1 March 1843: ‘Landseer again gave us a lesson in etching, making us try various new points & showing us the great advantage of changing points for different stages of the work, in which we have hitherto been very deficient.’ Landseer’s inspiration recurs over a range of subjects and in the many prints after his works.

The etchings offer a picture of the interests of the royal couple in their early married years. The Prince had a keen interest in art and the Old Masters. He also introduced Queen Victoria to German Romantic literature (Goethe and Schiller in particular) and read to the Queen from Schiller’s works. Their family absorbed them and the children and dogs play an important role in the etching subject matter.

These prints were presented to the British Museum by their grandson, George V, in 1926.