Queen Elizabeth II (‘Equanimity’) by Chris Levine and by Rob Munday

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    Queen Elizabeth II ('Equanimity'),    by Chris Levine, by  Rob Munday,    2012,    NPG 6936,    © Chris Levine
Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.
Queen Elizabeth II ('Equanimity')
by Chris Levine, by Rob Munday
lenticular print on lightbox, 2012
30 3/4 in. x 22 1/4 in. (782 mm x 565 mm) overall
NPG 6936
© Chris Levine

Queen Elizabeth II (1926–2022) reigned for 70 years, from 1952 to 2022. Britain and the wider world saw enormous social and technological change during this time.

Elizabeth became an internationally recognised Icon A famous person or thing that people admire and see as a symbol of a particular idea or way of life. . For many, she represented continuity and stability. She was Britain’s longest-ever reigning Monarch A person who rules a country, for example a king or a queen. .

Analysing the portrait

  • View larger image
    Queen Elizabeth II ('Equanimity'),    by Chris Levine, by  Rob Munday,    2012,    NPG 6936,    © Chris Levine
Queen Elizabeth II ('Equanimity'), by Chris Levine, by Rob Munday, 2012

Look carefully at the portrait. Take your time – look at it for at least a whole minute. What can you see?

    • Queen Elizabeth II is seen here in a formal Pose A particular position in which somebody stands or sits in order to be painted, drawn or photographed. . She is shown head-on, facing out of the portrait. She is looking directly at the photographer and us, the viewer. She appears dignified and calm. 
    • She is wearing a crown, a fur Stole A piece of clothing consisting of a wide band of cloth or fur, worn around the shoulders; a similar piece of clothing worn by a priest. , a dress with a plain design, and simple jewellery. These are the kind of clothes, accessories and Regalia The special clothes that are worn or objects that are carried at official ceremonies. she would have worn for an official event. 
    • We can clearly see the details of Elizabeth’s face, the softness of her fur stole and the sparkling jewels in her crown. This clarity and the three-dimensional (3D) effect of this Holographic Produced using holograms; in the form of a hologram. portrait make it seem as if she were in the room with us.
    • It’s an immediately powerful portrait. The Monochrome Using only black, white and shades of grey in a photograph, illustration or other type of image or design. colour choice and black background help to make it appear imposing and dramatic. 
    • During her lifetime, Elizabeth II became one of the most recognisable people in the world.
    • The clothes and accessories were carefully selected to reflect Elizabeth’s royal status. She is wearing a blue velvet dress, a white Ermine The white winter fur of the stoat, used especially to decorate the formal clothes of important officials such as judges and kings. Stole A piece of clothing consisting of a wide band of cloth or fur, worn around the shoulders; a similar piece of clothing worn by a priest. , a single string of white pearls and the Diamond Diadem – a type of crown. 
    • The crown includes 1,333 large diamonds and 169 pearls. It is a symbol of the British Monarchy A system of government with a king or a queen at the head. . It was made in 1820 for George IV's coronation and was worn by Queen Victoria at her coronation. It was also worn by Elizabeth II on the journey to her own coronation. 
    • Elizabeth is also shown wearing this crown on British postage stamps and coins. The crown helps present an image that is instantly recognisable and familiar, making the portrait immediately Icon A famous person or thing that people admire and see as a symbol of a particular idea or way of life. .  
    • White ermine fur is historically associated with the monarchy. In Tudor Connected with the time when kings and queens from the Tudor family ruled England (1485–1603). times, only members of the royal family and people of high status were allowed to wear white ermine.
    • The simple, unfussy Pose A particular position in which somebody stands or sits in order to be painted, drawn or photographed. also presents an image of Elizabeth that is familiar.
    • To many, she represented unchanging values and duty across the decades. The timeless, Regal Typical of a king or queen, and therefore impressive. pose seems to reflect this. 
    • Levine and Munday used a Holographic Produced using holograms; in the form of a hologram. technique. This involves taking lots of high-resolution digital photographs from different positions and angles, using a specially designed moving camera. These images are then processed and layered to create a single 3D image.  
    • To create this portrait, about 8000 photographs of Elizabeth were taken in two and a half hours, across two separate sessions.
    • Lots of careful preparation was needed. Before the portrait Sitting A period of time when somebody sits or stands to have their picture painted or be photographed. , Levine spent three days setting up in the room at Buckingham Palace where the portrait was to be created. His camera system and the chair the queen would sit on had to be precisely positioned. 
    • To make sure Elizabeth looked straight ahead, so that we engage with her Gaze The relationship of looking between sitter, artist and viewer. , the artists placed a small light at the back of the room and instructed her to look at it. This was to stop her from being distracted by the moving camera taking the photographs.  
    • Levine lit Elizabeth’s crown using specially made LED lighting, designed to highlight the diamonds
    • Munday designed and built a brand-new digital camera recording system to photograph the images for the portrait. He also wrote special software to control all aspects of making the image. 
    • The artists took both colour and black-and-white photographs of Elizabeth during the portrait sessions but decided to use the black-and-white images. They chose to photograph her against a plain black background so there would be no distractions from Elizabeth as the focus of the image. 
    • The artists initially chose red and blue coloured cloaks for Elizabeth to wear, but in a Monochrome Using only black, white and shades of grey in a photograph, illustration or other type of image or design. image these looked dark grey and disappeared against the black background. The similar dark Tone A shade of a colour. also made the portrait look flat.
    • The artists then photographed Elizabeth wearing the white fur Stole A piece of clothing consisting of a wide band of cloth or fur, worn around the shoulders; a similar piece of clothing worn by a priest. , which stands out more dramatically against the background, creating a more Tonal contrast The difference between the tones or brightness in the elements of an image. and three-dimensional visual interest. It also frames her face more effectively. 
    • The Composition The arrangement of people or objects in a painting or photograph. is simple, with the portrait cropped to head and shoulders. This ensures that we focus on Elizabeth’s face.  
    • It is also the composition that we see in many portraits of Elizabeth II on coins, banknotes and stamps, adding to the portrait’s Icon A famous person or thing that people admire and see as a symbol of a particular idea or way of life. look.  
    • The artists’ careful arrangement of the camera and Elizabeth’s chair ensured that she faced the camera at exactly the right height and distance to achieve the composition they wanted. 
I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong. 
Queen Elizabeth II, on her 21st birthday, 1947

Who was Queen Elizabeth II?

  • Queen Elizabeth II reigned as queen of the United Kingdom England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (considered as a political unit). and many Commonwealth An organisation consisting of the United Kingdom and other countries, including most of the countries that used to be part of the British Empire. states from 1952 to 2022.
  • She became queen at just 25 years old while Britain was still recovering from the devastation of the Second World War. During the war, Elizabeth had worked as a mechanic and lorry driver.  
  • Her coronation in 1953 was the first to be televised. It was broadcast across the world.
  • She ruled through a period of enormous social and technological change.
  • She saw the end of the British Empire The countries ruled by Britain starting in the late 1400s and peaking around 1920 when the British Empire included around a quarter of the world's population. , although its Legacy A situation that exists now because of events or actions that took place in the past. still affect our lives today.
  • She championed the development of the Commonwealth – from a small group of seven countries to a family of 56 nations representing every continent of the world.
  • She saw 15 British prime ministers, from Winston Churchill through to Liz Truss, who was appointed two days before Elizabeth died. 
  • The role and influence of the British Monarchy A system of government with a king or a queen at the head. has become less powerful politically over time, but it remains central to British culture today. Elizabeth was admired by many for the way she distanced herself from day-to-day politics and maintained her personal authority.
  • She is said to be the most recognised person in the world.

Why is this portrait significant?

  • Hundreds of painted and photographic portraits were made of Elizabeth II. This was the first Holographic Produced using holograms; in the form of a hologram. portrait of her.
  • It was Commission A formal request made to an artist to create an artwork. in 2004 by the Island of Jersey (one of the Channel Islands off the south coast of England). It marked 800 years of Jersey’s loyalty to the British Monarch A person who rules a country, for example a king or a queen. , even though the island is not part of the United Kingdom England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (considered as a political unit). .
  • Levine remembers Elizabeth ‘...was quite up to speed on holographic processes – she was very interested in photography.’

Who are the artists?

  • Chris Levine (born 1960) describes himself as a ‘light artist’.
  • Light is central to his work, which includes photography, lasers, Holographic Produced using holograms; in the form of a hologram. and stage design. He works across many creative fields including music, performance, Installation A piece of modern sculpture that is made using a variety of media such as sound, light or other objects. , fashion and design.
  • He views light not just in terms of his art practice but more broadly, as part of human experience, so his work has a spiritual and philosophical aspect.
  • Levine suggested the name Equanimity for this portrait of Elizabeth II, which means ‘the quality of being calm and even-tempered’.
  • He also suggested that the Holographic Produced using holograms; in the form of a hologram. stereogram be lit with blue light to enhance the sense of ‘equanimity’.


  • Rob Munday (born 1958) is a pioneer in holography.
  • He taught himself the technique and became one of the UK’s first holographers.
  • In 1985, Munday was invited to help set up and run the world’s first postgraduate degree in creative holography at the Royal College of Art.
  • During this time, Munday created some of the first computer-generated holographic stereogram artworks.
  • In 1991, Munday built the only holographic portrait studio in the UK and the world's first 3D digital Hologram A special type of image that appears to be three-dimensional (solid rather than flat). printer. He created the world’s first 3D digital holograms in early 1992.
  • In 2011, the Government of Jersey Commission A formal request made to an artist to create an artwork. Munday to create a holographic postage stamp of Elizabeth II. This was the first stamp in the world to contain a holographic portrait of a head of state.

Questions

  1. What impression do you have of Elizabeth II from this portrait?
  1. This portrait of Elizabeth II is called ‘Equanimity’, which means ‘the quality of being calm and even-tempered’.

    What do you think of this title? Why?
  1. What do you think were some of the major changes in Britain during Elizabeth II’s reign?

    You could focus on one theme, such as music, medicine, politics, technology, rights and equalities. Or you could think about your own local area and how it has changed.