Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A new state portrait of Queen Elizabeth II

Last Friday the Governor-General of Australia, Quentin Bryce, unveiled a new portrait of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, Australia and several other countries by the Australian artist Ralph Heimans.
Coronation portraits are (for obvious reasons) rare these days, but this new portrait may almost qualify as one. It shows Queen Elizabeth standing in Westminster Abbey, apparently at night, wearing her coronation robes and the coronation necklace and looking down at the central onyx of the thirteenth century Cosmati pavement in front of the high altar, in other words the very spot where she was crowned on 2 June 1953.
The painting can be interpreted in many ways, perhaps the most obvious being the old monarch reflecting on her sixty years on the throne - or looking to the future, contemplating her own mortality and the fact that another coronation will take place on that spot in a not too distant future? The “sacred” nature of monarchy might perhaps also be read into it.
It is apparently not quite clear who has commissioned the portrait and thus where it will end up, but it will go on a tour of countries of which Elizabeth II is queen and be shown in London next year.
Scandinavian readers may perhaps already be familiar with Ralph Heimans because of his portrait of Crown Princess Mary of Denmark (at the Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Palace in Hillerød), which shows the Australian-born Crown Princess standing in the Garden Room of Fredensborg Palace, whose wall paintings have been replaced with Australian views.

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