The Art of Diplomacy

In August this year, Dr Laura Popoviciu, Curator, Research & Information (Historical) collaborated with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on making a short video entitled The Art of Diplomacy. The film provides an insight into some of the works of art on display in the FCO, both from FCO’s own collection and on loan from the Government Art Collection, and the role they play in setting the tone of cultural relations.

The Art of Diplomacy

© Crown Copyright

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When the new Foreign Office building in King Charles Street opened in 1868, it revealed an image of Britain and its diplomatic relations consistent with that particular moment in time. The monumental façade on three levels built in the neoclassical style after designs by architect Charles Gilbert Scott was intended to reflect that vision. The sumptuous interior decoration, designed in collaboration with Matthew Digby Wyatt, responded to Lord Palmerston’s taste and ideals in that it was conceived as ‘a national palace or drawing room for the nation’. It included a grand staircase, stencilled walls, ormolu and bronze chandeliers, mosaic pavement and painted allegorical figures. Durbar Court at the heart of India Office, with its marbled floor, portrait busts and polychrome frieze witnessed significant historical events such as the reception of the Sultan of Turkey in 1867 and the coronation celebrations of King Edward VII.  The FCO building also shows how layers of history coexist through its art and architecture, and later interventions such as Sigismund Goetze’s murals painted throughout WW1 surrounding the Grand staircase narrate the story of imperial Britain.

Today, a great number of works of art on loan from the Government Art Collection are displayed across the FCO. They evoke notable figures and moments in British and global history and invite current audiences to experience this rich cultural heritage and identity.

You can find out more information about the story of the FCO through its art, history and diplomacy at http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/fco-virtual-tour/