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Pietro Annigoni (1910 – 88)

‘I had made up my mind to show her in solitude, rather thoughtful and severe, profoundly human, and, at the same time, queenly without recourse to crowns or other symbols of regality’. The Italian artist Pietro Annigoni was commissioned by the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery to paint a new portrait of The Queen in 1969. Fifteen years earlier, Annigoni had painted the young Queen for the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, depicting her as a romantic figure wrapped in the dark blue cloak of the Order of the Garter. In his second portrait Annigoni shows The Queen in the red cloak of the Order of the British Empire. The influence of Cecil Beaton’s photograph of The Queen wearing the dark cloak, taken the previous year, can also be felt in Annigoni’s simple yet monumental composition. For the 1969 painting, Annigoni was granted 18 sittings over a period of eight months. The result of his first eight sittings was this over-life size oil and pastel preparatory study of the head and shoulders of the monarch against a dark night sky. This study was retained by the artist and was purchased by The Queen from his family in 2006.