Queen spots surprise hidden detail in new portrait

·2-min read

Queen Elizabeth has been immortalised in a brand-new portrait, but the monarch couldn’t look past a very unusual detail hidden in the background of the piece.

The new portrait was commissioned by the Foreign Office and painted by British artist Miriam Escofet over seven painstaking months.

Royal portrait of Queen Elizabeth II commissioned by Foreign Office, painted by Miriam Escofet includes empty teacup
Queen Elizabeth's royal portrait contained an unusual detail even the Queen couldn't help but notice. Photo: Getty Images

The art was unveiled over video call in a historic first, but it was off-camera when the Queen raised her concerns that her portrait-self had been left without refreshment, despite the presence of a classic Bitich teacup.

Miriam Escofet said after the call that the Queen had asked her why her teacup had been left empty in the portrait.

"When I explained certain elements of the painting, the teacup, she made some amusing comments,” the artist said.

Queen Elizabeth views unveiling of Foreign Office portrait over video call historic first
The Queen reportedly asked after the empty teacup while chatting to the artist. Photo: Getty Images

"She said 'but there's no tea in the cup'.”

Miriam explained that she had left the teacup empty in an artistic nod to one painting that helped inspired the detail-rich portrait.

The artist said she had drawn inspiration from 1533 piece The Ambassadors by artist Hans Holbein the Younger, and put the teacup in place of the symbolic skull which features in a warped version in the foreground of the painting.

The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger skull detail inspires empty teacup
The Ambassador's famous skull inspired the empty teacup, artist Miriam Escofet explained. Photo: Getty Images

The teacup also included another very tiny nod to the commission office, with FCO – Foreign and Commonwealth Office – inscribed on the cup’s saucer.

"I said I'm afraid the tea has been sacrificed for the symbolism,” the artist said.

It wasn’t just Her Majesty who noted the missing tea, with eagled-eyed observers quick to point out that the monarch had been left beverage-less in the vividly coloured work.


“Wonderful Miriam, but where's the tea??” one person wrote online.

“The cup needs some tea in it,” another pointed out.

Another called the lack of tea tantamount to ‘sacrilege’.

The Queen herself didn’t seem to mind, telling those gathered on the Zoom call she was ‘very impressed’ both with the portrait and the work of the Foreign Office in combatting coronavirus worldwide.

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