Exhibition shines new light on the true passion of Victoria and Albert

An exhibition of the art Queen Victoria and Prince Albert collected and presented to each other will challenge attitudes towards the monarch, the event's curator has claimed.

The major display showcases for the first time the royal couple's enthusiasm for paintings, sculpture, jewellery and furniture and also gives an insight into their relationship.

More than 400 pieces from the Royal Collection go on public display at the Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Palace next Friday, in an event that is set to question perceived ideas of Victoria as the grieving widow of 40 years.

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Sensuous paintings and sculptures showing the nude female form and private artwork shared between Victoria and her husband reveal the Queen as a passionate young woman.

One highlight is the rarely displayed painting known as "the secret picture" by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, which the Queen commissioned in 1843 as a surprise present for Albert's 24th birthday.

In the oval image, the Sovereign is shown in what many Victorians would have described as a sensual pose with a bare neck and her long hair flowing freely.

Jonathan Marsden, lead curator for Victoria & Albert: Art & Love, said: "It was really only intended for Albert's eyes. The Queen does not exactly look like a Queen, that's how he knew her – not the rest of the realm."