Where Richard III is concerned, his physical appearance is all important. His enemies alter his portraits to give him an evil, scheming aspect that suits their agenda. His friends prefer more flattering portraits that show him as he really was. There is one portrait in the National Portrait Gallery (above) that is perhaps the most famous one of him…and the Tudors set to work with subtle brushwork to change him. Sometimes he’s made to look quite yellow and ghastly. Anyway, the above portrait, in which he perhaps looks a little sad, to this below….
Now the same original portrait has been changed again, this time to improve Richard (I know, I know, some might say he doesn’t need improving!) Here it is:
It’s been done discreetly, but definitely does for him what airbrushing does for modern celebrities. What clear skin! What a flawless forehead. What a thoughtful, approachable face, and so on and so on.
I won’t go into all the many copies of this one portrait, some of which are ridiculously unflattering, such as this next one. Anything to make him look like the Wicked Uncle the Tudors wanted us to think he was.
Of course, the thing is that we don’t really know the origin of the initial portrait. It seems to have been painted some time after his death, but was it a copy of one for which he actually sat? I doubt if we’ll ever know.
One thing we do know is that since the discovery of his remains, a likeness has been made that has to be accurate because it’s created from his actual skull.
So we see that he really was a good-looking young man. Maybe his chin doesn’t match the one in the NPG portrait, but is more likely to be spot-on. And depending on the precise angle from which you look at the reconstruction, the chin doesn’t jut forward so much.
Before this there was another computer-altered likeness of the NPG portrait. It was the first I’d seen, and caused quite a stir at the time. The background below is my doing. The original artist is unknown to me.
I decided I wanted him to look directly “into the camera” so to speak, so I fiddled with the original CPG likeness, altering the eyes and also giving him a slight smile.
Then someone else ( I don’t know his/her identity) had him grinning broadly!
How far we’ve come from that nasty Richard of the Tudor period! In fact, there are now moving images of him on line, and all sorts of other likenesses that are very far from that NPG portrait, which probably wasn’t the first of him anyway!