It can be tough to remember that the members of the royal family are people too — especially in portraits that show them sitting primly in gilt chairs. That’s why portrait artist Benjamin Sullivan included an unexpected detail in a commissioned portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, which the queen herself revealed at a celebration of 100 years of the Royal Air Force Club in London on Wednesday.
In the portrait, which shows the queen in a gold-covered chair wearing a pale blue dress, pearls and low black heels, is her signature black leather Launer London purse on the floor beside her. According to Entertainment Tonight, Sullivan said the queen placed her bag there when she sat for the portrait; originally, it wasn’t meant to be included in the piece.
“It’s where she put it, and I thought I could take it out, but then I thought – actually it’s quite a nice thing, a personal thing,” he said. After the unveiling, Sullivan told the press, “I think the idea was to capture something of the role of the monarch, but one tries to get behind that to the person. And I really like the idea her handbag was placed in front of the gilt chair. It was almost happenstance that it was placed there but it gives some idea there’s actually a person as well as a figurehead, it’s personal.”
The Queen unveils a new portrait that was commissioned to celebrate 100 years of @TheRAFClub. Started in February 2018 and set in the White Drawing Room of Windsor Castle, the portrait was painted by Benjamin Sullivan – who won the BP Portrait Award in 2017. pic.twitter.com/4ZkETFJrPD
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) October 17, 2018
According to ET, the queen has been a fan of Launer London purses ever since designer Sam Launer sent her one in 1968. At Wednesday’s unveiling, she again wore blue. In addition to revealing the portrait, the event also marked the opening of the Royal Air Force Club’s new wing and other newly commissioned artworks.
The royal family has had a number of big announcements this week, including Princess Eugenie’s wedding and the news that Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan (née Markle) of Sussex are expecting their first child together. It’s sweet that Sullivan opted to include a moment of humanity in his new portrait of the queen, especially when so many major moments for her family are in the headlines.