Duchess sits for portrait after heavy Lizard lash

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Kate Middleton. Photo: Grazia.

“I wake up in the morning feeling like K Middy”… words sang neither by Ke$ha nor me. Whilst Kate and I studied the same degree of Art History at the same university (I feel this gives me the right to first-name her), I am sad to say the similarities end there. I have neither a royal husband, nor hair that the creative director of Pantene would weep at the very sight of, nor the commitment to stick to anything as ridiculous as the Dukan diet (I’ve read a few pages of the book and I’m pretty sure it’s just prawns and cottage cheese). However, the biggest difference I have to Kate Middleton is that she thought that her first official portrait was ‘amazing’, and if it were me then I probably would have detagged on Facebook.

Kate Middleton. Photo: Grazia.
Kate Middleton. Photo: Grazia.

That sounds harsh I know, after all Kate Middleton on a bad day still looks a damn sight better than me. However, I feel the portrait, painted by the artist Paul Emsley and commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery for whom the Duchess of Cambridge is a patron, is just so underwhelming. If I wanted to see what Kate Middleton looked like in her natural state then I would either have a look at her passport photo or take up stalking. Kate’s appeal lies in the fact that she is “one of us”, but an amazing version that we might want to aspire to, and this just doesn’t come across in the work. Emsley’s work is of near photographic quality, but it doesn’t offer the sense of a captured moment in time that so enchants a viewer in the work of a photographer like Mario Testino. In Testino’s photographs of Diana, The Princess of Wales there is an overwhelming sense of a real person moving ethereally through emotions, and we are drawn in. We want to meet the person shown and exist in the same world as they do. In comparison, Kate just looks hungover, a feeling I know all too well and not one that exactly inspires aspiration.

Emsley has said that “The Duchess explained that she would like to be portrayed naturally — her natural self as opposed to her official self. She struck me as enormously open and generous and a very warm person”. Unfortunately I do not see an open, generous or warm person, but a forgettable one. Trying to paint in a way that is true to nature has long been a goal for many artists, and indeed Anne of Cleves definitely suffered because of her painter’s artistic license, so I’m not necessarily saying that Emsley’s approach has no merit. However, I believe that somebody’s “natural self” is that person relaxed and totally at ease, not what they look like first thing in the morning. The Duchess of Cambridge is a beautiful woman, and Paul Emsley is evidently talented with a paintbrush, but this is just proof that beauty is more than skin deep. The realistic rendering shows nothing of the warmth that Emsley spoke of, and is instead just quite boring.

Poor Kate doesn’t even look like she had a fantastic night in the Lizard to give her those under-eye bags.

Heresy? A number of internet spoofs of the portrait have emerged since the unveil.
Heresy? A number of internet spoofs of the portrait have emerged since the unveil.

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