The NPG has inexplicably and obsequiously placed the huge portrait of former Australian Crown Princess Mary of Denmark in the most prominent place in the whole gallery – front on as you walk in. Relegated to the princess’s bum level on a wall behind, there is a small photograph of Queen Elizabeth.
Is the Portrait Gallery making some sort of weird republican statement? Or are they just rude? The reception Australia gave QEII a couple of weeks ago would indicate that Australians think highly of the Queen and would probably prefer a little respect was shown to this rather amazing woman.
It was fine for an Australian citizen, Mrs Mary Isabel Murphy, to commission and donate a portrait of Crown Princess Mary to the National Portrait Gallery, however, the gallery’s own policy is to acquire:
” … representations of individuals who have influenced or contributed to the shaping of Australia as a nation and a society.”
It’s an odd interpretation of the policy that a citizen who meets and marries a foreign prince and relinquishes their Australian citizenship is helping shape our society. The portrait is disproportionately large compared to the status of the sitter and that reflects poor conversations when it was commissioned. A more modest portrait would have been more suitable.
Princess Mary is currently on a visit to Australia that is one week’s “trade delegation on topics of sustainability” and of course is here to promote Danish trade. That’s followed by three weeks’ private holiday. It turns out that one of her official “duties” is rather bizarrely for the princess to go to the gallery and view this long-unveiled portrait of herself. (Though I think the NPG may have flown it to Denmark for her to approve, years ago, so she has already seen it.)
The cultural institutions around the Parliamentary Triangle are crying poor. Rather than the NPG pay the hundreds of dollars in handling costs to move the portrait, you’d think the “commonsense Australian” princess would be happy to walk 10 metres to the space where the NPG’s former director had it hung – a little out of the way and not prominent over portraits of eminent Australians.