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Queen Elizabeth II

© Hiroshi Sugimoto

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Queen Elizabeth II

by Hiroshi Sugimoto
gelatin silver print laid on aluminium, 1999
58 3/4 in. x 47 in. (1492 mm x 1194 mm) overall
Purchased, 2003
Primary Collection
NPG P1002

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This portraitback to top

The Japanese artist Sugimoto studied photography in Los Angeles. This strangely disconcerting portrait of the Queen, at once lifelike and artificial, actually shows a wax mannequin. It forms part of a series of photographs taken from wax effigies and tableaux in public attractions such as Madame Tussaud's in London, which were displayed as a group in 2000, and included portraits of former monarchs such as King Henry VIII and his six wives.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Photographs, 2018, p. 124 Read entry

    This strangely disconcerting portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (b.1926) appears both lifelike and artificial. It forms part of a series of photographs of wax effigies taken by Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto (b.1948) in public attractions such as Madame Tussaud’s in London. In the style of an old-master portrait, the wax figure is posed in three-quarter-length view and dramatically lit against a black background. A long exposure of up to nine minutes captures minute details of the figure’s clothing and expression. Printed larger than life, Sugimoto’s portrait has a deeply uncanny quality. What appears to be a photograph of a living human being is revealed to be a photograph of a stiff and artificial recreation, a wax figure whose likeness was carefully modelled from other photographic reproductions of the sitter: a portrait three times removed from the Queen herself.

  • Howgate, Sarah; Nairne, Sandy, A Guide to Contemporary Portraits, 2009, p. 15 Read entry

    This strangely disconcerting portrait of Queen Elizabeth II (b. 1926), at once lifelike and artificial, is based on a waxwork at Madame Tussaud’s. Larger than life, it comes from Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Portraits series, which includes images of former monarchs such as Henry VIII and his six wives. The artist’s work is characterised by meticulous technique and by the creation of groups, or series of portraits, through which he explores notions of time, reality and representation. Playing with both the illusionism of the waxwork and the artificiality of commemorative portraiture, Sugimoto questions the meaning of phrases such as ‘from life’, ‘life-like’ and even ‘life-size’.

  • 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. 135 Read entry

    The Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto studied photography in Los Angeles. This strangeley disconcerting image of the Queen, at once lifelike and artificial, actually shows a wax mannequin. It forms part of a series of photographs of wax effigies and tableaux in public attractions such as Madame Tussaud's in London. Sugimoto's 'portrait' of the Queen is an abstraction, an image of something that is itself unreal.

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Events of 1999back to top

Current affairs

Following referendums in 1997, The Scottish Parliament is opened and Welsh Assembly established in 1999. The new Scottish Parliament has the powers to pass legislation and alter tax. The Welsh Assembly currently has less legislative authority but controls a budget for Wales and can amend legislation passed by Westminster.
The House of Lords Act removes all but 92 Hereditary Lords from the second chamber.

Art and science

Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman's film, Shakespeare in Love wins the Oscar for Best Picture. The film, starring Joseph Fiennes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Judi Dench, Geoffrey Rush, and Colin Firth, among other British screen stars, provides a fictitious account of the events that inspired William Shakespeare to write Romeo and Juliet.


NATO begins a bombing campaign against the government of Yugoslavia following the breakdown of the Rambouillet Accords that attempted to grant Kosovo autonomy within Serbia under NATO administration. After nearly three months of bombing, Slobodan Milosevic agreed to allow a peacekeeping force to enter Kosovo and the province was placed under a United Nations Interim Administration.

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