The first thing that struck the Queen was the sheer size of the woman looking back at her.
At six feet two inches, she had never seen herself quite so tall.
The monarch, who stands five feet, four inches in real life, took a moment to admire the new portrait of herself. A hush fell over the dignitaries gathered in the White Drawing Room of Buckingham Palace. Everyone wanted to hear the Queen’s assessment.
She turned to the Canadian artist who painted the portrait.
“It’s changed quite a bit since I last saw it,” she said.
“Yes,” Phil Richards replied. “It went from six inches to this.”
Everyone laughed. Then the Queen turned to her representative in Canada.
“Do you think you’re going to have to rebuild Rideau Hall?” she asked.
“We’ll find a spot for it,” Gov. Gen. David Johnston replied.
Finding a place to hang the 328-by-224-centimetre painting won’t be easy. But it ought to be on full display, because it’s quite a sight to behold.
The painting depicts the Queen standing in front of an arched doorway in Rideau Hall, a portrait of her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, behind her. She wears a white dress with a chiffon skirt and beaded bodice and carries white satin gloves in her hand. Her jewellery includes a diamond tiara, earrings, bracelet and a three-strand festoon necklace.
It took Richards nearly two years to paint the portrait. He based it on a series of photographs taken of the monarch during her 2010 royal tour of Canada. He also had an audience with the Queen to discuss the concept for the painting.
He was coy about that conversation.
“I’m not supposed to tell you anything the Queen said herself,” Richards told reporters, although he conceded that she took an interest in how the portrait turned out.
“As hands on as any of my sitters are,” Richards said.
“I would say more of trying to give advice and opinions about what you’ve got so far, and to help direct you to an image that’s both satisfying to me, the artist, to the sitter and to the country … that is commissioning the work.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper presented the portrait to the Queen following a private audience earlier Wednesday.
“This portrait represents the appreciation of all Canadians for sixty years of outstanding service to our country and the Commonwealth,” Harper said.