CORONATION!: Westminster Abbey
In 2013, through the generosity of Lord and Lady Harris of Peckham, Westminster Abbey acquired the painting The Coronation Theatre: Portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for it’s permanent collection.
The painting was officially unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery of Australia, Canberra, in September 2012, where it was seen by record numbers during the 6-month exhibition, “Glorious”. It was first displayed in London as part of the exhibition “Coronation!” in Westminster Abbey’s Chapter House from 23 May – 27 September 2013.
The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster said:
“The Queen's Diamond Jubilee portrait by Ralph Heimans speaks powerfully of the moment of Her Majesty's anointing and coronation 60 years ago that we are celebrating this year. The Queen in the glorious space of the Abbey standing at the very place where she committed herself to God and her people reflects powerfully on the years of service. I am delighted that this portrait will help countless numbers of future visitors to the Abbey to celebrate and give thanks for this remarkable reign.”
The exhibition run was interrupted by a dramatic act of vandalism on June 13, when the painting was defaced and taken off display. The protestor entered the Abbey and sprayed the portrait with paint on behalf of the movement Fathers for Justice. He was arrested on site after writing the word “help” on the portrait and subsequently served a 6-month sentence. The work was taken off display and underwent extensive restoration work for a period of 5 weeks by the in-house conservation team of Westminster Abbey and assisted by the artist. Subsequently the fully restored painting went back on public display on Monday 15th July until the end of the exhibition term on Sept 27.
After the exhibition, the portrait was hung in Cheynegates at Westminster Abbey whilst work was carried out on the Diamond Jubilee Galleries in the Triforium level of the Abbey. The painting took its permanent place in the new Galleries on June 8, 2018, when it was officially opened by HM The Queen and is currently on public display. The Diamond Jubilee Galleries, representing the first building works within the Abbey for 250 years, houses the Abbey’s extensive collection of artworks, religious artefacts and relics, with the portrait occupying a central focus of the exhibition.