Tag Archives: portraits

Queens’ anniversaries

This June not only marks the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation on 2 June 1953 but also 175 years since another female British monarch was crowned; the young Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom on 28 June 1838. Both queens have celebrated a Diamond Jubilee and are the United Kingdom’s longest serving monarchs – a remarkable achievement, which is also reflected in the eventful periods that mark their reigns spanning over decades of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

Victoria oversaw a whole era of innovation, which was particularly true in postal affairs. The world’s first postage stamp, The Penny Black, was issued during her reign on 6 May 1840 and featured the young queen’s portrait.

The Penny Black and "Machin" stamp designs.

The Penny Black and “Machin” stamp designs.

Since Queen Elizabeth II’s ascension to the throne in 1952, many ground-breaking changes have taken place in every part of British life. In stamp design, the Queen’s head was almost removed from pictorial stamps but finally a new timeless and classic design was finally commissioned for definitive stamps: the “Machin stamp”, featuring Queen Elizabeth II’s effigy. Based on the white cameo relief created by Arnold Machin this iconic design has been reproduced on stamps over 200 billion time since 1965.

To commemorate these two extraordinary anniversaries, the British Postal Museum & Archive Shop is now offering a unique set of Wedgwood Jasperware plates featuring the two classic portraits of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II from stamp design. A Black Basalt plate shows Queen Victoria’s portrait from The Penny Black, and a Portland Blue dish features Queen Elizabeth II’s image from the “Machin Head”. The plates are 11cm in diameter with a white wreath of laurel leaves on the border and come beautifully presented in a Wedgwood box. You can now purchase this ideal souvenir of the coronation anniversaries in 2013 as a set for £17.50 from the BPMA online shop (plus P&P).

Wedgwood Jasperware Set.

Wedgwood Jasperware Set.

Royal Portraits

To mark the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Her Majesty The Queen, Royal Mail has unveiled a special stamp issue featuring a collection of some of the finest ever portraits of The Queen, including a brand new painted portrait; the first Royal Mail has commissioned of the monarch.

The six Royal Portraits stamps, issued 30 May 2013.

The six Royal Portraits stamps, issued 30 May 2013.

The painting is the result of three especially convened sittings with The Queen for the artist, Nicky Philipps, that took place in the Chinese Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace in the late autumn of 2012. The Queen is dressed in the Order of the Garter robes.

Portrait of Her Majesty The Queen by Nicky Philipps, specially commissioned by Royal Mail.

Portrait of Her Majesty The Queen by Nicky Philipps, specially commissioned by Royal Mail.

Nicky painted a double portrait of Princes William and Harry in 2009, which is displayed in the National Portrait Gallery. She was selected for the Royal Mail commission after research and consultation with the National Portrait Gallery, Royal Mail is gifting the portrait to the Royal Collection.

The Queen’s Coronation took place on 2 June 1953 following her accession on 6 February 1952.

The other five stamps feature; study for The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II by Terence Cuneo, 1953; Portrait by Andrew Festing, 1999; Portrait by Pietro Annigoni, 1955; Portrait by Sergei Pavlenko, 2000 and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Richard Stone, 1992.

Study for The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II by Terence Cuneo, 1953 – 2nd Class.

Study for The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II by Terence Cuneo, 1953 – 2nd Class.

Portrait by Nicola Jane Philipps (Nicky), 2013 - 1st Class.

Portrait by Nicola Jane Philipps (Nicky), 2013 – 1st Class.

Portrait by Andrew Festing, 1999 – 78p.

Portrait by Andrew Festing, 1999 – 78p.

Portrait by Pietro Annigoni, 1955 - 88p.

Portrait by Pietro Annigoni, 1955 – 88p.

Portrait by Sergei Pavlenko, 2000 – £1.28.

Portrait by Sergei Pavlenko, 2000 – £1.28.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Richard Stone, 1992 - £1.88.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II by Richard Stone, 1992 – £1.88.

The Royal Portraits stamps are now available from 9,000 Post Offices across the UK, online at www.royalmail.com/royalportraits, and by phone on 08457 641 641.

How the Post Office Can Take You from Struggling Artist to Famous Society Portraitist!

Or at least this is just what it did for renowned artist George Romney in the 1760’s. Romney was one of the most popular portraitists in London during the second half of the 18th century, competing with the likes of Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds for commissions and patrons. He painted many leading society figures of his day—most notably Lady Emma Hamilton, the mistress of Horatio Nelson, who was Romney’s muse and appeared in over sixty of his paintings.

But Romney was not always the famous society artist that we know him as today. Born in Dalton-on-Furness on December 26, 1734, the son of a cabinet maker, Romney began his artistic career in Kendal at the age of twenty-one, apprenticed to a local artist. He was married in 1756 to Mary Abbott, but they were almost instantly separated after their marriage and remained apart for the better part of Romney’s life. He then moved to London in 1762, but continued to struggle financially and never found any great success, as Romney had very few acquaintances in London, which made it difficult to find commissions. However, this changed somewhat when Romney befriended Daniel Braithwaite, the clerk to the Postmaster General, who introduced him into the middle-class professional circles, an important society group eager to commission portraits. You can see Mr. Braithwaite’s appointment records in the Post Office below, in 1765 and 1768, which hail from the BPMA archives (POST 58/1).

Appointment of Daniel Braithwaite, 1765 (POST 58/1)

Appointment of Daniel Braithwaite, 1765 (POST 58/1)

Appointment of Daniel Braithwaite, 1768 (POST 58/1)

Appointment of Daniel Braithwaite, 1768 (POST 58/1)

After experiencing this success and finally earning some money as a portraitist, Romney then travelled to Paris in 1764 and Italy in 1772 to complete his training and study the works of the Old Masters, as most aspiring artists did in those days. He returned to London in great debt in 1775, but his new found training and his old success in the city helped him to win many important commissions, and Romney’s success as a portraitist was finally secured. It was during this wave of newfound popularity that Romney painted his portrait of Anthony Todd, the Postmaster General from 1762-65 and 1768-1798, whom he possibly had contact to through his friendship with Daniel Braithwaite.

Anthony Todd, George Romney, British Postal Museum & Archive Collection, c. 1779

Anthony Todd, George Romney, British Postal Museum & Archive Collection, c. 1779

Three years after painting the Postmaster General, in April 1782 at the height of his popularity, Romney met Emma Hamilton, then Emma Hart, only seventeen years old to his forty eight years, who he began to paint obsessively, in the form of real-life portraits, allegorical portraits and history paintings. This marked a change in his career, as he was so enamoured by his muse that he found it difficult to take on regular commissions, altering his portrait practice. Despite this change, with the deaths of Gainsborough in 1788 and Reynolds in 1792, George Romney still became the leading portraitist in London. He was continually overwhelmed with commissions until he was forced to return to Kendal and his estranged wife in 1799 as a result of his failing health. Romney died on 15 November 1802 in Kendal at age 68 as one of the most prolific and renowned portraitists of his time—a reputation he earned with the help of his early friends in the Post Office.

– Sarah Cooper, Intern