A Memorial Bronze Portrait of Diana

T he process of creating a 3D portrait posthumously, or simply from photographs is far more difficult than working from life. With the subject present, they sit on a chair which is placed on a turntable. The sculptor works using a modelling stand, which has an integrated turntable. It is important that the clay portrait lines up with the subject’s head. So, rather than the subject simply sitting facing one direction whilst a 2D sketch or painting is created, they are constantly turned so that the sculptor has a 360 degree view of their head. This can take up to six two hour sittings. But working only from 2D photographs the sculptor has to collate enough information from flat images to create a 3D portrait. But this is only the practical side. When you are in the presence of the sitter you can engage them in conversation, learn about the habitual expressive movements in their eyes and mouth, their personality, listen to their story and connect as deeply as possible to their spiritual energy - in other words, to their soul. I often feel that if the sculptor has the right intention, they can be a witness to a human being in a completely unique, non judgemental way.

Diana was photographed thousands of times; there was no shortage of images of her. But she had an elusive, chameleon quality. Mostly the photographs were glamorous, as her admirers created a multi faceted, film star Princess. So to reach the real Diana was extremely difficult. I spent a year working on the portrait. At the end of each session I would think that I had ‘caught’ her. The next morning, as I took the cellophane off the wet clay, somehow there was always something more I had to struggle to find. I feel I captured a likeness and an energy, but perhaps the real Diana will always remain an enigma.

Following the death of Princess Diana there was much discussion over the possibility of a memorial to her. I submitted my portfolio, along with other artists, to the committee set up at Whitehall, in the hope of receiving a commission for either a statue or a bust. The debate continued for a long time until finally my creative muse, for good or ill, compelled me to begin a study of the Princess. It took forever! She was multi faceted and elusive. I poured through thousands of photographs, endlessly changing the portrait, day after day for a whole year. As the anniversary of her death approached, the press began to question why a memorial had still not been decided upon for the Princess. In a lighthearted fashion, an artist friend pretended to be my agent and we sent out a brief press release with a photograph of my still unfinished portrait in clay of Diana. We expected nothing to happen. A full colour page spread in the Evening Standard followed a few days later, with the word 'Rejected' in large print heading the page. Immediately press from around the world visited my studio. Naturally I was excited, but naive about the power of words and refusing to acknowledge the press’s real intention. The piece was used to attack the committee for not commissioning a memorial for the Princess, and the symbol of that one word remained as an invisible stamp on it. To date the bronze portrait has never been on public exhibition.

Lesley Pover