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Isabella Blow

1 of 4 portraits matching 'tim noble'

© Tim Noble and Sue Webster. All Rights Reserved, DACS, 2023. Image: © National Portrait Gallery

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Isabella Blow

by Tim Noble, by Sue Webster
taxidermy, wood, fake moss, light projector and installation template, 2002
61 in. x 19 5/8 in. x 19 5/8 in. (1550 mm x 500 mm x 500mm)
Given by Tim Noble, Sue Webster and the estate of Isabella Blow, 2009
Primary Collection
NPG 6872

Sitterback to top

Artistsback to top

  • Tim Noble (1966-), Artist. Artist or producer associated with 1 portrait, Sitter in 2 portraits.
  • Sue Webster (1967-), Artist. Artist or producer associated with 1 portrait, Sitter in 2 portraits.

This portraitback to top

In this portrait, a spotlight transforms an amorphous collection of objects into a silhouette of Blow's head. The artists were fascinated by what they saw as Blow's gothic quality and chose to depict her as though on a stake. Included in the sculpture are a stuffed raven and rat, in addition to Blow's trademark lipstick and one of her own Manolo Blahnik shoes.

The acquisition of this unusual portrait of Isabella Blow posed unprecedented questions for the Gallery surrounding display and longevity. The portrait is a combination of sculpture, installation and light projection and presents a silhouette of Blow's head, created by a simple spotlight shone on an apparently amorphous ball of objects. It includes fifteen taxidermy animals, including birds, a rat and a snake, in addition to the sitter’s trademark lipstick and one of her own Manolo Blahnik shoes. In making the portrait, the artists were fascinated by what they saw as Blow's gothic, medieval quality and chose to depict her as though on a stake, using ravens and the particular species of rat that is connected with the Black Death. When initially considering the work for acquisition, Gallery curators recognised that it was a fascinating depiction of the sitter in a highly original form. However, given the inevitable consideration of the long-term care that such a complex piece would involve, it was not a straightforward question for the Gallery.
The Gallery needed to know technical details about the creation of the work, such as which preservatives had been used for treating the animals, in order to ensure that no toxic chemicals had been applied. It was also important for the Gallery to know whether elements of the work that are crucial to the silhouette could be replaced or fixed back on if they were to fall off. Other considerations included what the best storage for the work was, how regularly condition checking should take place, how the work should be dusted and how pest infestation could be prevented.
The curators consulted conservators at the Natural History Museum who specialise in taxidermy animals as well as an independent taxidermist, and a number of recommendations were made and a set of guidelines for display and maintenance were created. This enabled the Gallery to proceed with the acquisition with a plan for the future care of the work in order to ensure its long-term preservation. When the work was acquired the silhouette of the object was traced and diagrams of the head from different angles were made so that if an element ever does fall off it can be fixed back on in the correct position. The work is now stored and displayed in climate-controlled conditions and regularly checked for pests.

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Events of 2002back to top

Current affairs

2002 was an eventful year for the Royal Family, highlighted by the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations, but marred by the death of Princess Margaret, followed just three months later by the death of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother at the age of 101 (making her the longest lived royal in British History).

Art and science

The relationship between two of the greatest modern masters is celebrated in Tate Modern's blockbuster exhibition Matisse Picasso. By exhibiting their works side-by-side, the show revealed the relationship between the two artists from 1906-54.
The 'Party at the Palace' concert in celebration of the Queen's Jubilee brings together stars from the last 50 years of Pop: Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Brian Wilson, Queen, Ozzy Osbourne and Elton John.


Terrorist bombing attacks on the Island of Bali in Indonesia leave 202 people dead, including 25 Britons. The three attacks took place in a bar, outside a nightclub and outside the United States consulate, and were aimed at foreign tourists, although many locals were also killed or injured. The Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah were found guilty of perpetrating the attacks.

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