The two men in charge of the Queen’s art collection have left and won’t be replaced “for the time being” because of Covid’s impact on royal finances.
Desmond Shawe-Taylor, the Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures – a post that was created in 1625 – has taken redundancy.
Rufus Bird, the Surveyor of The Queen’s Works of Art, has also left.
The Royal Collection Trust has said it expects to lose £64m in income this year because Buckingham Palace and other sites have been shut to visitors.
That has forced the Trust, one of the the royal household’s five departments, into carrying out a restructure and staff cuts.
Writing in the Trust’s latest annual report, the Prince of Wales, its chairman, said: “We are now facing by far the greatest challenge in the charity’s history and have had to take many hard decisions in order to adjust to the new economic realities.”
The Trust looks after the Queen’s vast and distinguished art collection, which includes masterpieces by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Rubens, Titian and Reynolds.
The post of Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures was created by Charles I, and previous holders include Anthony Blunt, who was later revealed to have been a Russian spy. Mr Shawe-Taylor had been in the job since 2005.
The Trust is also responsible for opening the Queen’s official residences to visitors. Its latest exhibition, Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace, opened on 4 December but was forced to close less than two weeks later, when London’s coronavirus restrictions were tightened.
A statement from the Trust said: “As part of the Royal Collection Trust restructure, Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures and Chief Surveyor, and Rufus Bird, Surveyor of The Queen’s Works of Art, will leave the organisation under the Voluntary Severance Programme.
“The posts of Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures and Surveyor of The Queen’s Works of Art will for the time being, be lost and held in abeyance.
“The Director of the Royal Collection, Tim Knox, will assume overall responsibility for the curatorial sections, supported by the Deputy Surveyors of Pictures and Works of Art.”