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Making the work

Mediaeval to modern

In making the work, I was anxious to create an image that encapsulated the power of the mediaeval diptych but in a way that was appropriate for the modern world.

The male figure was the easiest to do. It seemed obvious that he should be a business man, as commerce and finance are the drivers of power these days. He needed to be young and handsome, like King Richard, while also looking just like any other man about the city in suit, coat and tie. The difference was in the details. I asked a colleague in my office if he had any ties with hunting designs and he produced several, one of which had the motif of a splendid stag. He also produced a tan cashmere coat, which made a fine substitute for the royal cloak. The brooch came from Holland and Holland, a London gun maker founded in the 1850s, which now offers clothes and accessories as well as continuing to make weapons. It made a worthy equivalent for King Richard’s beautiful white hart brooch.

The female figure was more difficult. What exactly does a young goddess wear these days? I wanted her to look urban, cool, normal, the extraordinary represented only by the antlers, which she wears with such nonchalant grace. In the first shoot, reclining in a pose based on that of the white hart in the diptych, she is dressed as any girl would be for a walk in a forest, in jeans. Only her draped white top, which hints at a Greek tunic, and her bare feet suggest something from a more ancient time.

In the final shoot, the challenge was to dress her in a way which recalled the iconic blue robes of the Virgin Mary but did not look like a fancy dress costume. I went back to the National Gallery and spent hours in the Sainsbury Wing. I was surprised by the variety in Mary’s clothes shown in the altarpieces and paintings gathered there. The blue robe was common, but not ubiquitous, and there was also the possibility of a contrasting under dress, in white, pink or perhaps green. Sometimes the under dress or even the blue robe itself was decorated, with embroidery or cord or tassel trimmings. What to do? The model suggested she wear a ball gown of her own, dark blue satin overlaid with black net spangled with stars. Her schedule gave us just one day before the shoot to try out her costume. Worried about lack of time, I ran out and raided the charity shops, scooping up a selection of possible alternative frocks. I needn’t have bothered - the dark blue ball gown was simple, dignified, perfect.

The model, by the way, was my goddaughter, no longer the child at play whose image had inspired the whole project, but a beautiful twenty something, cool and collected before the camera’s gaze.

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