THE PORTRAIT OF QUEEN ELIZABETH II BY PIETRO ANNIGONI
An ‘iconic’ image of the 20th century, Pietro Annigoni’s Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II was commissioned from the Italian artist between 1954 and 1955.
At the time, Elizabeth II was a young queen who had just ascended the throne and the artist was asked to create an official portrait that would describe not so much the person but the queen of an empire.
The Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II
In Pietro Annigoni’s Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, the young Queen of England is depicted in a three-quarter view wearing the dark blue robes of the Order of the Garter.
The painting, which is considered one of the masterpieces of 20th century portraiture, presents Her Majesty at a very particular moment in the history of the United Kingdom.
The untimely death of Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, in 1952 had elevated the sovereign’s young daughter, then aged 26, to the throne.
WHO COMMISSIONED THE PORTRAIT OF QUEEN ELIZABETH II
The work was commissioned from Pietro Annigoni, an exponent of the reality painters group, by the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers in London, with the permission of the Crown, following important critical and public recognition that the Italian artist had received in the United Kingdom.
It was customary, in fact, that royal portraits were not commissioned directly by the Court, but by institutions accredited to the reigning family.
Pietro Annigoni, a refined interpreter of human nature and psychological dynamics, achieved something with this portrait that would remain engraved in the history of contemporary portraiture.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PORTRAIT OF QUEEN ELIZABETH II BY PIETRO ANNIGONI
In the painting, the Queen wears the dark blue mantle of the Order of the Garter, the oldest and highest order of knighthood in the United Kingdom directly pertaining to the Crown.
Pietro Annigoni preferred a high angle framing to enhance Elisabeth’s profile, placing her figure against a radiant background of sky and earth caught in a bird’s eye perspective angle.
In the landscape behind can be recognised in the distance, to the right, Windsor Castle. The expression on Elizabeth’s face is that of a person with gentle, well-groomed features but with a strong temperament and determined in the fulfilment of her institutional duties, without flaunting the usual symbols of royalty.
The bursting vitality of this image is capable of conveying a message of confidence and hope to an entire nation hoping for a glorious and prosperous future.
SUCCESS OF PIETRO ANNIGONI’S PORTRAIT OF QUEEN ELIZABETH II
When Pietro Annigoni recalled the stages in the creation of the work, he stated that the first outline of the portrait was fixed on the spur of the moment, with a rough sketch on a sheet of paper, and it remained so because it turned out to be the right image to represent the Queen.
Pietro Annigoni’s Portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by Pietro Annigoni was an extraordinary success and was published in newspapers and glossy magazines in Britain and around the world, continuing to be talked about to this day.
This masterpiece was used in a wide range of institutional and commercial applications, including banknotes and postage stamps, especially in Commonwealth countries that have widely adopted Pietro Annigoni’s image.