Painting Royalty Can Be A Delicate Art

Jan 20, 2013
Originally published on January 20, 2013 8:05 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit



After 60 years locked in a darkened vault, a controversial portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth finally saw the light of day last week. John Napper painted the queen in 1952 and gave her a really long neck. Apparently, the portrait was supposed to be hung really high up so Elizabeth's neck would appear normal when viewed from below. But the painting was displayed too low; the Queen looked too long-necked, so it was quickly whisked away from view.

Napper himself, who died in 2001, said of his work, it is, quote "a beautiful painting of a queen, but not this queen."

The unveiling comes on the heels of another royal portrait kerfuffle, a widely panned new rendering of the Duchess of Cambridge. The Guardian's art critic, Adrian Searle, said this, quote, "The portrait is as soundless and smooth as an undertaker's makeover."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LITTLE QUEENIE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.