Monday, March 18, 2013

Duchess of Cambridge by Paul Emsley, 2011

HRH The Duchess of Cambridge by Paul Emsley, 2012
©National Portrait Gallery, London A National Portrait Gallery
commission given by Sir Hugh Leggatt in memory of
Sir Denis Mahon through the Art Fund

Reflecting the strains of blue from her shirt, the twinkling light emanating from the Duchess's eyes radiates a playful depth of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Her private smile only adds to that depth. Her chestnut hair cascades like a waterfall, ending in churning brown curls that beg to be touched.

Her beauty is classic and true. Her warmth emanates from the canvas, and her elegant choice in jewelry is perfectly understated. One sapphire earring haloed in diamonds hangs from her right ear, the other shrouded by her lovely hair. Instead of a necklace, she wears a “Windsor blue pussy-bow blouse” tied neatly at her neck. {5}

Her beauty is captivating, and though Mr. Paul Emsley, her portraitist, has caught her playful smile, he has also firmly established her grace, poise, and assuring presence. These attributes will one day serve her well when she becomes Queen of England.

The painting of Her Royal Highness was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery. Mr. Emsley was one of four finalists chosen by the Gallery’s director, Sandy Nairne. Among those who participated in the interviews with the four finalists was the Duchess of Cambridge herself.

Having won the BP Portrait Award in 2007, Mr. Emsley, born in Glasgow and raised in South Africa, was a lauded choice to paint this first portrait of Catherine Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Held annually at the National Portrait Gallery, the BP Portrait Award claims to “showcase the very best in contemporary painting from around the world.” That makes Mr. Emsley among the best of the best in 21st century painters.


1. Boniface, Susie. “Kate Middleton given Diana’s favourite earrings by Prince William.” Mirror News. July 24, 2011. Accessed January 31, 2013.
2. Cruz, Debbie. “Kate Middleton’s jewelry in 2012 (Photos).” Examiner. December 25, 2012. Accessed January 31, 2013.
3. Diana’s Jewels. “Earrings Catherine.” Accessed January 31, 2013.
4. Diana’s Jewels. “Rings Catherine.” Accessed January 31, 2013.
5. English, Rebecca. “I’m thrilled! Kate puts on a brave face as she sees first official portrait critics are calling ‘rotten’.” DailyMailOnline. January 11, 2013. Accessed January 31, 2013.
6. English, Rebecca. “What’s in a ring? Palace confirms that Prince William will not be wearing a wedding band when he marries Kate Middleton.” DailyMailOnline. March 31, 2011. Accessed January 31, 2013.
7. Faiola, Anthony. “In uproar over portrait of Duchess of Cambridge, its artist speaks out.” The Washington Post. January 31, 2013.
8. Murray, Rheana. “Kate Middleton’s first official portrait revealed: Painting of Duchess of Cambridge met with mixed reaction.” New York Daily News. January 11, 2013.
9. National Portrait Gallery. “HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.” Accessed January 31, 2013.
10. National Portrait Gallery. “News Release: National Portrait Gallery commissions first official painted portrait of The Duchess of Cambridge.” Last updated January 11, 2013.
11. National Portrait Gallery. “The BP Portrait Award 2012: The Exhibition.” Accessed January 31, 2013.
12. Satter, Raphael. “Critics Divided Over Duchess of Cambridge Portrait.” The Big Story. Last updated January 11, 2013.
13. Wilkes, David and Fay Schlesinger. “A ring fit for his mother…and his love: Prince William’s sapphire and diamond engagement ring for Kate.” DailyMailOnline. November 17, 2010. Accessed January 31, 2013.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

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