By Jennifer D. Webb

Pietro Annigoni died on October 28, 1988 in Florence. Born in Milan, Annigoni trained at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence. However, he is best known for his 1954-55 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, which depicts the sovereign, life-sized, without a crown, and against a landscape background with a fisherman. The latter detail references the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers that commissioned the portrait.

Annigoni executed other official paintings of the British royal family, including of HRH Prince Philip and HRH Princess Margaret and a portrait of the Queen Mother, dressed in academic robes, for the University of London.  Annigoni also completed a dual portrait of the Shah of Iran and Empress Farah Diba commissioned by the Iranian Oil Company. He also painted, with no sittings, the image of President John F. Kennedy (1961) that appeared on the cover of Time Magazine. His portrait career earned the artist the title of the “new Renaissance painter.”

Annigoni was not just a portrait painter. He also worked on religious painting which he noted, “brought him more satisfaction and fulfillment” according to Dawn Cookson in Painting with Annigoni. (p.56) In a fresco, Vita (1957-60), the artist explores materialism by showing a martyr at the center of the composition, crucified beneath a Coca-Cola sign, and before a polluted urban landscape in the background.

References: Cookson, Dawn. Painting with Annigoni: A Halcyon Decade as a Student in Florence 1958-68 (2000); Core, Philip. “Annigoni, Pietro.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.

Image: Self Portrait by Pietro Annigoni – 1946.

Video: Stephen Smith. Annigoni: Portrait of an Artist.

Further reading: Paul Moorhouse. The Queen: Art & Image. Manchester and New York: Hudson Hills Press, 2011; Pietro Annigoni. Pietro Annigoni: An Artist’s Life (An Autobiography). Allen, 1977.

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