Photo: The Telegraph
It is a face known throughout the world, but the public will see a different side of the Queen today as a portrait banished for 61 years goes on display.The controversial painting was once banned from Liverpool town hall because it looked nothing like the Queen and her neck was “too long”. Embarrassed council chiefs ordered it to be hidden from public view in the vaults.
But now the artwork, which councilors have tried to hide for more than half a century, will hang in the city’s St George’s Hall.
The painting was rejected when it was commissioned for the Queen’s Coronation but has been salvaged to commemorate the event’s 60th anniversary.
Even the artist John Napper, who created it in 1952, famously said it was “a beautiful painting of a queen, but not this Queen”.
Originally the Liverpool Corporation refused to hang it in the Town Hall. It hung briefly in the Walker Art Gallery instead, but has spent much of the last 61 years in storage.
But today, trustees at St George’s Hall announced that the portrait will be permanently shown there to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee.
Liverpool’s deputy Lord Mayor Gary Millar, a trustee of the hall, said: “We are very proud that Liverpool now has the original first painting hanging in St George’s Hall, which has been rehung to celebrate the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.
“It will be the first thing people will see if they come to get married or have a civil partnership or attend a citizenship ceremony.”
The painting is Napper’s second portrait of the Queen to be put on display in Liverpool.
After his first version was rejected by the council, he painted a second with a smaller neck, which was finally accepted by Liverpool town hall and still hangs there today.
Cllr Millar said: “It strengthens the link between the city’s two civic buildings.
“The second version of the John Napper painting is hanging in the town hall and we have the original here.
“It is an honour for us to work with the friends of the hall, the staff there and the city council to rehang this beautiful painting.”
The controversial portrait was unveiled just days after the Duchess of Cambridge’s first official portrait by Paul Emsley was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery to mixed reviews from the art world.
A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace said: “We do not comment on any of the portraits of Her Majesty The Queen.”
Mr Napper’s widow Pauline said today: “I remember the painting well. He was disappointed with the angle at which he painted it, he only had one sitting.
“I was due to be hung up high so that you would look at it from below. If you looked at it from that angle it looked normal.
“Then when they showed it they didn’t put it up high and then it didn’t look like the Queen.
Speaking from the home they once shared in Ludlow, Shropshire, she added: “It is a beautiful painting, obviously he would have been pleased that it is going on display. I am pleased too, it is a beautiful portrait.”
Mr Napper, who died in 2001 aged 84, painted both the Queen and Lady Churchill during the 1950s.
Prince Charles, whose portrait he painted in 1996, was an established fan and collector of his works
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