Queen Elizabeth sees new portrait via video call: ‘but there’s no tea in the cup’

Queen Elizabeth sees new portrait via video call: ‘but there’s no tea in the cup’

Painted by BP Portrait Award winner Miriam Escofet, the luminous portrait was completed during lockdown in the UK

Queen Elizabeth II has marked another first during her reign in lockdown – the unveiling of a new royal portrait via video call.

The monarch saw the painting for the first time via her computer screen before speaking to members of the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which commissioned the piece, about their work around the world during the coronavirus pandemic.

The painting features the monarch sitting in a golden chair and wearing a blue dress and pearl jewellery inside the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle.

The work is by Miriam Escofet, winner of the BP Portrait Award, and was commissioned by the FCO to create a “lasting tribute to Her Majesty’s service” to diplomacy.

Parts of the painting were inspired by Holbein’s The Ambassadors and the anamorphic distortion technique developed by Renaissance painters, which was used by Escofet with the intention of creating a “slightly surreal” element to the image and to make it more “intriguing for people to stumble upon,” the artist explained.

Escofet revealed to the royal that she included a hidden symbol in the painting, found on the tea cup design: the insignia of the FCO. Even through the screen, the Queen pointed out that the teacup in the painting had no tea in it, the artist said.

“She seemed to react very positively to it. She was smiling, asking how long it took and if I had any more projects on the go after this. When I explained certain elements of the painting, the tea cup, she made some amusing comments. She said ‘but there’s no tea in the cup’,” she said.

To create the portrait, Escofet had two sittings with the Queen. The first was at Windsor, where she photographed the monarch. The second sitting took place at Buckingham Palace, which allowed the artist to focus on the royal’s facial expressions.

During the second visit in February, held before the spread of the outbreak to the UK, Escofet recalls discussing the situation in Wuhan with the Queen.

The painting took seven months to complete, with the final stages finished in lockdown.

The painting was unveiled at the FCO, where Escofet had mounted the portrait on her own easel and draped a cloth over it.

After pulling the cloth down, the artist said the Queen “smiled and looked very pleased”.

– With reporting by PA Media

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