In a gesture of reconciliation, Shanghai sculptor Chen Dapeng has sculpted a bust of Queen Elizabeth II. The bust was reportedly presented to the Queen and the Royal family last week, but there is a problem. The bust reportedly looks more like the Hollywood actor Tom Hanks than Queen Elizabeth.
In March this year, the UK and China launched a year of cultural exchange. While it might seem strange for an icon of the UK, Prince William, rather adorably, assisted the UK animation studio Aardman in placing Shaun the Sheep sculptures all over the Chinese countryside.
— Gert’s Royals (@Gertsroyals) October 26, 2015
Now it seems China has returned the favor, as Chen Dapeng started sculpting his now-infamous bust of Queen Elizabeth. It took him three months, and 13 attempts, to finally complete the work to his satisfaction.
Last week, at the Winter Art and Antiques Fair in Olympia, West London, the massive sculpted bust was finally unveiled. The sculpture reportedly depicts her Royal Highness “bursting out as a flower from a bud.”
There has since been a lot of criticism, and naturally quite a bit of humor, regarding the new bust of Queen Elizabeth.
While the sculpture has probably set a record as the largest piece of Chinese white porcelain, weighing in at 20 kilograms (41 pounds), according to some it bears some resemblance to actor Tom Hanks. There are especially similarities around the mouth of the sculpture.
— Mashable (@mashable) November 3, 2015
Others, commenting on the social media and on various news articles, have said it looks a lot more like Robin Williams in his leading role in the 1993 movie, Mrs Doubtfire.
Reportedly, it was never Chen Dapeng’s intention to make a sculpture that looked more like a Hollywood celebrity than Her Majesty, as he used a variety of photographs, videos, and apparently even a biscuit tin to get the features right on the royal bust.
Artnet News quoted Dapeng as saying, “I can see that your British Queen is a remarkable and wonderful person who has served the British people well.”
He carried on by saying, “As an artist, I can see the wisdom and kindness in her features. My sculpture is offered as a gesture of reconciliation between our two peoples.”
The reference to reconciliation may stem from some lingering resentment over the British Royal Family’s association with the Opium Wars, where in 1860 the English reportedly sacked an imperial palace and even absconded with a Pekingese dog belonging to the Empress. The dog was apparently presented to Queen Victoria at Balmoral, where the highly prized mutt was dubbed, rather appropriately, “Looty.”
Vanity Fair reports that the art critic for the Telegraph newspaper, Mark Hudson, said the bust of Queen Elizabeth is “rather out of proportion, the back of the head is too large and he has given her a bit of a boxer’s chin. It’s ended up looking a bit like Tom Hanks. But it has a certain exuberance and if you like kitsch then why not? Good for him.”
However, Paul Harris, organizer of the Winter Olympia Arts and Antiques Fair, did point out that it is extremely hard to work with Chinese white porcelain, which reportedly consists of 17 ingredients, while other forms of porcelain only have two or three.
My clay version of bust of HM Queen Elizabeth I I. Finished version in white porcelain on show in London next week pic.twitter.com/3s1G7Rkbp3
— Chen Dapeng (@chendapengsculp) October 27, 2015
One point of interest is that, while a spokesman for Dapeng said the bust had been presented to Queen Elizabeth as a gift, a spokesperson for Buckingham Palace told the Telegraph they have no record of such an offer being made.
The sculpture of Queen Elizabeth can be seen in all its controversial glory at the fair, which runs from November 2 through November 8 this year.
The whole thing makes one wonder whether Queen Elizabeth, in private, might now be quoting her ancestor, Queen Victoria in saying, “We are not amused.”
[Photo by WPA Pool /Getty Images Entertainment]