Saturday, 12 January 2013

His Last Duchess


Photo: Only an official portrait painter could look at the person on the left and come up with the image on the right. Makes you wonder whether portrait painting has had its day when photography is now so good. (Note to hyper-republicans: not an excuse for snarky comments about the monarchy having 'had its day' - I'm already ahead of you.)

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meet artist Paul Emsley after viewing his new portrait of the Duchess, during a private viewing at the National Portrait Gallery in central London. 11 January 2013.

One of the much loved familiar traditions of English life is universal dismay at royal portraits. It gives the English a warm glow to know that some things never change, despite all the many things that do. This time it is well-deserved dismay at the first official portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge.

Someone brilliantly said that military justice is to justice what military music is to music. Royal portraits are to portraits what military music is to music.

The picture makes the Duchess look tough and slightly coarse, faintly vulgar - like her mother in fact. This is only part of what the Duchess is. She also has vitality, rapacity, warmth, sex appeal and charm.

Royal portraits were never much good and always universally thrashed except for those of the wonderful Bryan Organ who perfectly captured the mood of the early 1980s, the early Thatcher- Reagan era. Though this picture below looked more wonderful thirty years ago.

Diana, Princess of Wales, by Bryan Organ, NPG


  1. I think the artist has seen a woman made older by her entrapmant into the Royal Circle and her knowledge that for large part of her adult life she has done very little for herself .

  2. This Paul Ensley should be taken to The Tower immediately.