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Gallery displays miniature of Queen with intriguing history

Intriguing story: a miniature of the Queen commissioned to be given to her when she came to Bermuda in 1953. A dispute over the gift led to the formation of the Bermuda Society of Arts. The miniature is now on temporary display at the Bermuda National Gallery

The Bermuda National Gallery has put on display a miniature of Queen Elizabeth II to commemorate her passing.

But the miniature, which was designed to be given to her on her first visit to Bermuda in 1953, also played a role in the formation of the Bermuda Society of Arts, now the island’s longest standing art organisation.

According to the BNG, the delicate oil on ivory miniature, designed by William Hockley Harrington and painted by Doreen Frances ‘Mac’ Musson, was framed in silver laurel wreath wrought by Bermudian silversmith James Kempe.

It was intended to be given to the Queen by the Bermuda Art Association to commemorate her visit to the island, which was the first stop on her Royal Tour of the Commonwealth.

The six-month tour saw her fly to Bermuda and on to Jamaica, before boarding the SS Gothic on which she travelled to Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand, Australia, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Aden, Uganda, Malta and Gibraltar — covering a distance of 30,000 miles.

The St Edward’s crown above the portrait was originally created by Tiffany & Co in New York, made in gold and inset with diamonds.

The gallery added in a statement: “However, there was a disagreement within the Bermuda Art Association, with the director opposed to the gift, and it was ultimately deemed by the Governor of Bermuda, Sir Alexander Hood, as ‘not coming under the category of gifts Her Majesty is able to accept’.

“When this happened, the jewelled crown was kept by the person who had financed the project, an American friend of Bermuda-based artist Antoine Verpeilleux (British, 1888-1964), and it was replaced with the silver crown shown in the picture.”

The statement said: “The rift over the gift of the miniature caused a split within the already fractious Bermuda Art Association, ultimately leading to the formation of the Society of Artists in 1952 by a breakaway group, which, when formalised by an Act of Parliament in 1956, was restructured and officially renamed The Bermuda Society of Arts.

“BSoA remains Bermuda’s oldest established art organisation, residing in the City Hall & Arts Centre alongside the Bermuda National Gallery.”

The miniature, now part of the gallery’s permanent collection, will be on public display for a limited time.

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Published September 26, 2022 at 7:24 am (Updated September 26, 2022 at 7:24 am)

Gallery displays miniature of Queen with intriguing history

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