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Kate and Family Attend Unveiling of Her First Official Portrait

Friday, January 11, 2013

History and tradition are two very important words to any modern monarchy. As much as every royal family needs to bend with the times, none can fully let go of the pomp and circumstance of the past or in some sense they will lose their relevancy.  Today was one of the more historical days as the first, and much anticipated, official portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in London.  The subject herself was in attendance, of course, accompanied by William and the Middletons.

Kate is thought to be a little over twelve weeks pregnant, but you couldn't have told that from her figure flattering red Whistles dress. If Kate had not gotten so sick, we would all still be sitting around speculating.  I like this dress a lot, the chiffon like sleeves and fluid skirt are all very feminine, and the v-neck, so popular with Kate, keeps it from looking matronly. Her bangs are starting to grow out a little, but her hair looked great and she was smiling and healthy. So much for the great fashion, let's briefly consider the star of the show, the portrait.

Photo of the Duchess of Cambridge that was used for the official portrait.
On first look, I don't love it. He seems to have highlighted her light imperfections, without capturing her beauty. Her nose looks flat and it looks like she has bags under eyes and creases in her skin.  The artist specializes in pictures that are very realistic, and The Sunday Times says,
Paul Emsley, a 65-year-old artist based in Wiltshire who says he likes “to emphasise veins, bones, folds and muscles” in his work, was chosen from a shortlist of four drawn up by the National Portrait Gallery, of which the duchess is a patron.
I had hoped for something more regal, something that highlighted she is a princess. Diana's first official portrait was painted while she was engaged by Bryan Organ and is even more relaxed, although brighter, than Kate's, so that put a lot of things in perspective.

 With her usual care and tact, Kate chose to view it privately before publicly thanking and congratulating the artist and his wife.  She said it was, "just amazing, absolutely brilliant" while William concurred it was, "Beautiful". I don't think it is dreadful, because in many ways it does look like Kate, but it misses the mark in certain areas.  She is a much more radiant and beautiful woman than portrayed here. Nevertheless, it isn't a complete disaster as many critics seem to be claiming. It is natural, as she requested and dignified as is appropriate to her position. I particularly like that she is wearing the sapphire earrings that match her famous engagement ring.  Sapphires were made something of an official stone for the Princess of Wales by Diana and now have a certain historical signification. Honestly, the portrait gets better the longer you look at it.

Kate's family was also in tow to view the portrait, and while I am sure they are very proud to have their daughter's painting at the National Portrait Gallery, I have to wonder what was said over tea this afternoon...

Kate knew the Emsley's work and she requested that he be the artist, so she knew what she was getting into and I think she probably is truly happy with it.  Art is interpretation, not just reality, and she must like what she sees represented.  Kate left the museum with what looked like a red wrapped gift.  Apparently, they were postcards with her portrait on them.  If you can't live without a few of your own, click this link to buy online.

Until next time...


  1. Well, I think it rather dreadful. Her nose dominates the painting. Mrs. Middleton looks unhappy, too.

  2. It's fine. People need to calm down. She looks very realistic and has a certain character in this portrait. Interesting that they added sleeves.

    1. I noticed the sleeves, too. I wonder what happened there, because the sleeves look added in the portrait as well...

    2. Agree. I guess the portrait looks weird because of the added sleeves and the black background. Don't make her justice. She is beautiful, but hte portrait is to "serious" (yes, I know it's royalty, but still...)

  3. She looked beautiful today. Good idea to view the portrait in privacy, though. And I agree she knew the work of Emsley, so I bet she likes it too.

  4. Many people have siad it doesn't look like Kate but if you look at the photo that Emsley used for the portrait, it is a pretty spectacular likeness. I think we have got so used to photos of celebrities being airbrushed that when we see a 'real' picture, it seems odd. The fact is that Kate DOES have some light creases in her skin and some light puffiness/shadows around her eyes in the photo that Emsley used - so what? It doesn't make her less beautiful and maybe it says more about us as viewers that we seem to expect that photoshopped perfection that pervades every aspect of the media. Very few women of 30 have perfect porcelain, unblemished skin. Kate knew Emsley's 'warts and all style' was what she would get and I doubt if she is disappointed. I much prefer it to the cartoon caricature that was Diana's first official portrait. Annie, UK

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