Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The royal treatment

John Lennon appeared naked and Clint Eastwood was bound with ropes, but Leibovitz opted to have her subject in full evening dress for this official portrait (unveiled today) marking the Queen's upcoming six-day visit to the U.S. And whilst the critics seem largely impressed, I think the photograph has all the personality of a marble bust. There must be a line of people having to wait to have their picture taken in the same chair, the same costume, perhaps one of those little cut-outs you stick your head through.

But my main gripe is that there is tradition and there is transition and the two don't have to be seen as adversarial. Just look at this picture of Queen Charlotte that hangs in the National Gallery and also portrays an elderly Queen seated at a window looking out on a chilly English landscape. Has so little changed within the monarchy that Queens are indistinguishable? Does the monarchy have to equate with melancholy?

Remember Queen Charlotte had reasons to be down. She had seen her husband, George III, lose his reason, their son seemed to offer the monarchy a poor future, and she was worried the revolution in France might spread. But why does modern Queenie have a face on?

14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

She is down because she missed out on Kate Moss at TopShop and is still wearing the same old clothes.

6:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

because of phillip, wouldn't you be?

6:34 pm  
Anonymous hb13 said...

I rather like it but it looks more painted than photography dont you think?

6:39 pm  
Blogger Shep said...

It seems weird to compare this style Annie to her 'Hunter Thompson gets arrested on the Mexican border' days. I'm of the opinion that all my favourite photo-journalists have kindof fallen off the radar. I know we have Flickr and cameraphones and all that jazz...but where has all the good stuff gone? The moving stuff?

(Yes, I'm still here Lis - Still reading, still loving it all! xx)

6:34 am  
Anonymous Tanya said...

Yeah kind of have to agree. this is weird. She has definitely gone for the safe option here. A shame but maybe that is just what comes with age. Security?

9:24 am  
Anonymous hels said...

Tradition first. It is the monarchy after all and it's a commissioned work so to speak. She hardly had free reign I reckon. Nah, this was a paid deal.

9:25 am  
Blogger *snake*bite* said...

My daily fix - GREAT! - I totally agree with you she has not got that much to have a face on or has she?!?!

However i must say why change tradition? - A miserable monarchy seems to be the way of life!

xXx

9:43 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And she confessed to be a supporter of L'Arse, who are having a bad season. Bit like CHELSEA!!

9:45 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe she is just melancholic over the Kate and Wills split?

9:46 am  
Anonymous steve2 said...

She must be a West Ham fan. that would explain the depression all right.

11:11 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog you have here. Thanks for contributing to the global internet conversation.

12:46 pm  
Anonymous Heartybowl said...

Anytime an artist is paid the resulting piece loses some of its authenticity.When its done for Royals all the more I would suspect.

Go Man City - sorry but someone started the footie chain so not me to cut off the chat.

12:54 pm  
Blogger LPC said...

This picture is amazing.... it looks like a painting, and still is very modern... Great work...

6:52 pm  
Blogger Ms Baroque said...

Hi City Slicker - sorry, coming in late here.

Liebowitz has said in the past that she is inspired by Cecil Beaton's portraits of the Queen - and her mother - to which this one is very similar. Indeed it's set in the same room as one I've seen.

This is therefore a conscious act of hommage. I think the fact that the same queen, young, had her picture taken in this room in something like this style lends poignancy to this picture. An actof hommage is never the same thing that the original was.

In terms of her face, well, the Queen has always been known for a certain froideur, hasn't she? And Leibowitz ius just as well known for working WITH her subjects, for bringing out their personalities. Every one of her great portraits took an aspect of her subject to some extreme. You could never put the Queen into ropes or a pile of roses or make her get her kit off. So this picture is highly approrpiate, which is one thing, and at least spares us those terrible self-conscious attempts to "humanise" the Queen, as if she weren't a human to begin with.

Finally, I think the surface of this picture is lovely. The lighting is subtle in the extreme, and it is full of lush texture. It's lush yet inaccessible, which chiimes perfectly with everything else. I think, despite its lack of pbvious subversion or experimentation, it's beautiful.

I meant to blog on this when the picture was released but didn't get a chance.

3:10 pm  

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