With fanfare not seen since the unveiling of the new reverse sides of the Nation’s coinage in 2008 at the Tower of London, the Royal Mint has unveiled the fifth portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – which is to grace British coins from today. Incorporating the backdrop of the National Portrait Gallery just off Trafalgar Square, the portrait, which had been kept under strict wraps since it was chosen by the Royal Mint Advisory committee and from a selection of eight serious submissions, only three were “shortlisted” which included this winning design. The portrait then made its debut to a roomful of waiting international media.
Royal Mint Archives curator Kevin Clancy was the first to speak of the importance of the event, noting that only one other British Monarch had as many portraiture changes as the current Monarch but, today, she was exceeding this number by one as the Queen’s portrait was to be updated a fifth time from today. Royal Mint Chief Engraver Gordon Summers discussed in his comments the background to creating a new design and the intricate work behind the scenes needed for such an undertaking. It was then up to Chief Executive Adam Lawrence to “do the honors” and with the drop of the curtain concealing the design, he introduced the new effigy of Queen Elizabeth II which will become a familiar image to the British public as the Queen herself.
As part of the unveiling, we also learned the name of the artist whose work we were all assembled to see, he is Royal Mint engraver Jody Clark who, at 33 years old, becomes the youngest artisan to design a royal portrait for numismatic purposes. Jody’s more recent work includes last year’s special issue Proof Britannia series which received acclaim from collector’s and critics alike. Jody is also the first Royal Mint engraver to have been chosen to create a definitive portrait since George William de Saulles created the portrait of King Edward VII in 1902.
The Royal Mint also took the occasion to feature their latest reverse design change for British coins by showing off the new reverse side for the current £2 coin in which the mythical allegorical figure of Britannia has returned after an absence of seven years when her image was removed from the 50 pence denomination. The work of Anthony Dufort was used on this occasion and Britannia is depicted from head & shoulders with Union Jack shield and trident over her right shoulder. The new £2 which includes the new obverse is available from today from the Royal Mint’s online retail shop.
From today, all coins produced at the Royal Mint will include the new definitive royal portrait of the Queen, who is depicted wearing the Royal Diadem which was first worn by Her Majesty during her coronation in 1953. The diadem is also often seen during the state opening of Parliament and was also last seen on British coinage from 1985 to 1997 when Raphael Maklouf included this diadem on his portrait of the Queen. It was disclosed that artists who submitted a design had worked from photographs of the Queen provided by Buckingham Palace and offered to the artists. After the design was finally chosen by the Royal Mint advisory committee, the design was recommended to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and ultimately submitted to the Palace for the Queen to either approve or reject.
COINUPDATE.COM will have a one-on-one interview with Jody Clark tomorrow as part of our coverage of the Royal Mint’s unveiling of the fifth definitive royal coin portrait.
The History of the Queen’s Portraits
The Gillick Portrait, 1953
In 1952, Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II, and the first coins of her reign were struck. The first definitive portrait of The Queen was created by Mary Gillick, a British sculptor born in Nottingham, England in 1881. Gillick captured the promise of the young Elizabeth, wishing to reflect her youthfulness rather than a perfect likeness of her physical age. Her portrait echoed the classical, with The Queen wearing a wreath of laurel, rather than the crown we are so used to seeing today. The portrait was attractive and idealized, far from photographic, and very different in style to the more realistic portraits that would follow.
The Machin Portrait, 1968
Preparations for decimalization began secretly in 1962, with the coinage needing a whole new suite of designs, including a more up-to-date portrait of The Queen, who had been on the throne for 15 years. Sculptor Arnold Machin, born in Stoke-on-Trent, England in 1911, was selected from initial designs and would go on to model his portrait of The Queen in two sittings to perfect his effigy.
The Maklouf Portrait, 1985
Raphael Maklouf was born in Jerusalem in 1937 and came to Britain after the Second World War. His was the third definitive portrait of The Queen, and it first appeared in 1985. It was a formal depiction and was ‘couped’ (or cut-off) above the shoulders, the first time a coinage portrait has been treated this way during The Queen’s reign. Maklouf was proud to report that, “Her Majesty exclaimed that I took less time to complete the portrait in front of her eyes than it sometimes took photographers to get the right lighting and take the photographs.”
The Rank-Broadley Portrait, 1998
The fourth definitive coinage portrait was introduced in 1998, and was created by Surrey-born sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley FRBS. His design was strong and took many months to complete, but Ian Rank-Broadley felt, “It was essential to the integrity of the project for the portrait to be a recognizable one, and not over-idealized.”
The Clark portrait, 2015
Jody Clark is a member of The Royal Mint’s team of talented designers and engravers. Born in the Lake District in 1981, he studied illustration at the University of Central Lancashire before building a wealth of experience in computer-aided design in the packaging industry, among other freelance illustration and design projects. Since embarking on his career at The Royal Mint, Jody has worked on some notable projects such as the medals struck to celebrate the 2014 Ryder Cup and Nato Summit. His celebrated contemporary interpretation of the iconic Britannia adorned the coin’s 2014 collection. Jody’s portrait of the Queen has a sense of the monarch’s warmth, with a hint of a smile, reflecting the modern queen we see today.