Chris Levine - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 17, 2024 | Phillips

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  • “As with all my portraits, it’s about achieving stillness and the truth that is revealed when there is this state of serenity.”
    —Chris Levine
    On 14th November 2003, the Yellow Drawing Room of Buckingham Palace was transformed into Chris Levine’s temporary studio, with England's then reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, sat as his subject. The resulting portrait captures the monarch rendered in the simplicity of black and white, subverting the traditional norms of pomp and splendour that characterises traditional royal portraiture. Tranquillity is found within the monochromatic composition, in which the Queen is placed before a flat black background, distanced from the theatricality of a regal setting. With close cropping, the work focuses on the Queen’s content and knowing expression. Ultra-high definition allows for details of her face to be marked out in clarity in a way never seen before. The work finds further three-dimensionality in its use of holography, which required Levine to take 10,000 images of the Queen across two sittings. 


    For the portrait, Levine requested that the Queen wear her most iconic crown – the Diamond Diadem. Made in 1820 for George IV, the diadem was worn by the Queen for her coronation and featured in her iconic profile image that was endlessly circulated on stamps and coins. An ermine cloak and a single string of pearls additionally contribute to the monarch’s costume, utilised by Levine as a signal to a lineage of prior portraits of royal figures. In doing so, the artist acknowledges his subject’s historical significance whilst presenting her using the techniques of the modern day. 


    Levine’s Lightness of Being was commissioned by the Jersey Heritage Trust in celebration of an 800-year allegiance between the island of Jersey and Great Britain. The work was praised by the National Portrait Gallery as the most evocative image of a royal sitter by any artist, and by Mario Testino as the Queen’s most beautiful portrait ever. In 2012, as part of The Queen: Art and Image exhibition, it toured the National Gallery Complex, Edinburgh; National Museums Northern Ireland, Belfast; and the National Museum, Cardiff. An exceptionally popular image, the work was chosen to feature on the cover of TIME magazine to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. 


Lightness of Being

Lenticular print in colours on light box.
framed 78 x 58 x 5 cm (30 3/4 x 22 7/8 x 1 7/8 in.)
Signed and annotated 'A/P' in black felt-tip pen on the reverse of the frame (the edition was 10 and 4 artist's proofs), further signed, dated '2019' and annotated 'AP' in pencil on the accompanying Certificate of Authenticity issued by the artist, contained in the original artist's specified white-washed wooden frame.

Full Cataloguing

£20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for £25,400

Contact Specialist

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+44 20 7318 4024

Rebecca Tooby-Desmond
Specialist, Head of Sale, Editions

Robert Kennan
Head of Editions, Europe

Anne Schneider-Wilson
Senior International Specialist, Editions

Louisa Earl
Associate Specialist, Editions

Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 17 - 18 January 2024