One of the greatest royal portraits of the twentieth century, Pietro Annigoni’s 1954-5 painting of The Queen is to go on public display for the first time in 26 years at the National Portrait’s Gallery’s The Queen: Art and Image exhibition, it was announced today.
It will be shown on the same wall as the artist’s second celebrated full-length portrait of The Queen commissioned by the Gallery in 1969, the first time these portraits will ever have been seen together for over a quarter of a century and only the second time ever.
Since it was first shown at the Royal Academy in 1955, the painting has only been loaned twice, in 1958 and 1986, by its owners The Fishmongers’ Company, one of the City of London Livery Companies, from Fishmongers Hall, where the painting occupies a prominent position. This refined painting in tempera, oil and ink on paper on canvas, reflects the artist’s fascination with Italian renaissance techniques. When shown at the Royal Academy, it drew crowds said to be ten-deep with viewers fascinated by the portrait’s idealised yet penetrating character.
This spectacular new addition to the Gallery’s touring exhibition – opening in London tomorrow, 17 May 2012, ahead of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend celebrations – will be displayed alongside some of the most remarkable and resonant images of Elizabeth II across 60 years of her reign, including those by Lucian Freud, Gilbert and George, Cecil Beaton, Andy Warhol, Annie Leibovitz and Lord Snowdon.
Annigoni’s grand, full-length painting Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Regent, shows the recently crowned, 28-year-old Elizabeth wearing her magnificent Garter robes, and depicted against a pastoral landscape. The painting was prompted by an observation made by The Queen while the artist was making a preparatory sketch in Buckingham Palace:
When I was a little child, it always delighted me to look out of the window and see the people and traffic going by.
The resulting work shows a monarch in a sylvan idyll yet outward looking and connected to her surroundings.
It is seen next to Annigoni’s life-size 1969 commission for the National Portrait Gallery depicting the monarch again in ceremonial robes but now standing against an ambiguous, spare and gloomy, plain background. While both portraits were greeted by enormous public and press interest, the later work adopted a radically different approach from the romantic view of the earlier portrait. Annigoni said:
I did not want to paint her as a film star, I saw her as a monarch, alone in the problems of her responsibility.
Left: Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Regent by Pietro Annigoni, 1954-5 © The Fishmongers’ Company
Right: Queen Elizabeth II by Pietro Annigoni, 1969 © National Portrait Gallery, London
THE QUEEN: ART & IMAGE – National Portrait Gallery, London
From 17 May until 21 October 2012