The official portrait of HRH The Duchess of Cambridge was unveiled at London’s National Portrait Gallery on Jan. 11 and is currently on public display there. The portrait was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery through the Art Fund. The painting was painted by the BP award-winning artist Paul Emsley (born in 1947 in Glasgow, Scotland) who has also painted such notable figures as President Nelson Mandela and author V. S. Naipaul.
Experts are categorizing the painting within the tradition of Italian Renaissance portrait master, Leonardo da Vinci citing a keen ability to capture likeness and the use of dark and light areas to convey drama to the image.
Soon other royal portraits will be compared to this painting of the Duchess of Cambridge like the paintings by Hans Holbein of the royal court member of King Henry VIII to more current and famous painting of Princess Diana by American artist, Nelson Shanks.
Onlookers the world over — that is anyone with a pair of eyes—have offered their critique of the painting too. Some adjectives that have been used to describe the work of art include dark, unflattering, inconsistent, etc.
I think that the way that the artist has captured the Duchess’ trademark flowing long hair and coy yet understated smile is an achievement, aesthetically speaking. Of course, the natural beauty of the Duchess of Cambridge contributes to the success of the Emsley painting.
Some say that the painting shows a more serious side of the Duchess, but I disagree with that assessment. I think that the painting shows a youthful royal with a zest for life and a sincere smile that shows her unique understanding of her position. The piece captures her likeness, suggests her vigor and makes the viewer want to take a second look.
The Duchess sat twice for the artist in both May and June 2012. One sitting took place at the artist’s studio and the other in the Duchess’ own surroundings at Kensington Palace. Like most contemporary portrait artists, Emsley produced photographs and worked from them to complete the portrait. The painting was completed after approximately four months of work by the artist.
The Duchess’ eyes are attractive, realistic, and bright. An oddly familiar earring emerges from the Duchess’ curled hair which shows a strong resemblance to the famous sapphire and diamond engagement ring that was once owned by the late Princess Diana.
The portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge is a bust length portrait which does not show the sitter’s hands so the earring may serve as a remembrance of the family tradition and the famous history of the royal jewels. I think that as with many works of fine art, the earring may serve as a symbol of the legacy of the royals. This object is a recognizable link to her husband Prince William and his legacy of the royal lineage.
Reports indicate that the Duchess wanted to be portrayed naturally, not officially. To include the Duchess with her smile, many who know her say, was a good and obvious choice.
Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, now The Duchess of Cambridge, was born in Berkshire and attended Marlborough College. The Duchess studied at the British Institute in Florence before enrolling at the University of St Andrews in Fife. She has a degree in the History of Art. She married Prince William of Wales at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011. She holds an honorary position as a Patron of the National Portrait Gallery.
“HRH The Duchess of Cambridge” by Paul Emsley is on display now as part of the Contemporary Collections in the Lerner Galleries of the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Judging from the portrait, it looks like it’s good to be Kate.
To see the portrait, "HRH The Duchess of Cambridge," click here.
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