Queen Elizabeth II

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Queen Elizabeth II

by Pietro Annigoni
tempera grassa on paper on panel, 1969
78 in. x 70 in. (1981 mm x 1778 mm)
Given by Sir Hugh Leggatt, 1970
Primary Collection
NPG 4706

On display in Room 28 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Pietro Annigoni (1910-1988), Painter. Artist or producer of 3 portraits, Sitter in 32 portraits.

This portraitback to top

The trustees of the National Portrait Gallery commissioned the Italian artist Pietro Annigoni to paint a new portrait of the Queen in 1969. The Queen herself had expressed a preference for the artist who had painted her once before in 1954; two years after her coronation. Annigoni's second portrait, paid for by the art dealer Sir Hugh Leggatt, took 10 months and 18 sittings to complete. This stark and monumental composition proved to be a startling contrast to Annigoni's earlier portrait of the young queen, which was glamorous and romantic. He explained his changed approach: 'I did not want to paint her as a film star; I saw her as a monarch, alone in the problems of her responsibility'. The unveiling of the portrait in 1970 generated enormous press and public interest.

Related worksback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Cannadine, Sir David (Introduction); Cooper, Tarnya; Stewart, Louise; MacGibbon, Rab; Cox, Paul; Peltz, Lucy; Moorhouse, Paul; Broadley, Rosie; Jascot-Gill, Sabina, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 7 October 2018 -3 February 2019. Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia, 16 March - 14 July 2019.), pp. 203-204, 218 Read entry

    When this portrait was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery in 1969, the Italian artist Annigoni was a natural choice, having previously painted Elizabeth in 1954 to great acclaim. The timing of the commission coincided with the transmission of the documentary Royal Family, which included unprecedented scenes of Queen Elizabeth and her family in private and domestic settings, and was watched by over 40 million viewers worldwide. In spite of this surge of interest in the royal family, Annigoni chose to depict the Queen in a stark and solitary environment. When the portrait was unveiled, it generated enormous public and media interest. Reactions focused on the contrast between this representation and the famous portrait Annigoni had made of the Queen in 1954 for the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, which was romantic and idealised. The artist explained his radically different approach: 'I did not want to paint her as a film star; I saw her as a monarch, alone in the problems of her responsibility.' These words signal a reaction against the impression of glamour that had coloured the public's perception of the Queen during the early part of her reign.

  • Gittings, Clare, Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I: An Educational Resource Pack, 2003
  • Moorhouse, Paul and Cannadine, David (appreciation), The Queen: Art and Image, 2011 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 17 May to 21 October 2012), p. 91 Read entry

    Commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, Annigoni's second portrait of the Queen was unveiled to enormous public and press interest. Reaction focused on the contrast with Annigoni's earlier portrait, which presented a romantic, idealised view. The new portrait adopted a radically different approach. The artist explained: 'I did not want to paint her as a film star; I saw her as a monarch, alone in the problems of her responsibility.'

  • Rogers, Malcolm, Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, 1993 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 August to 23 October 1994), p. 188
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 202
  • Shulman, Alexandra, Elizabeth II Princess, Queen, Icon, 2021, p. 10
  • Shulman, Alexandra, Elizabeth II Princess, Queen, Icon, 2021, p. 87

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1969back to top

Current affairs

The Open University is established, based on the vision of Michael Young. Its aims were to offer the chance to study for higher education qualifications on a part time and distance learning basis, giving people who were unable to attend a traditional university because of family, work commitments or disability the opportunity to achieve university degrees.

Art and science

The comedy sketch show Monty Python's Flying Circus is first broadcast. The Pythons performed surreal sketches that reinvented the comedy tradition, eschewing punch lines for a stream-of-consciousness structure and incongruous authorial interventions: 'and now for something completely different'.
Kenneth Tynan's Oh! Calcutta amuses and shocks audiences with full nudity on stage, taking advantage of the recent end to censorship laws.


Neil Armstrong takes 'one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind' when he becomes the first man on the moon.
Concorde makes its first supersonic flight. The plane was designed, developed and manufactured by a joint treaty between the French and English governments.

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