Photographs by Snowdon
Ellizabeth Taylor - A Photographic Celebration - National Portrait Gallery

I went to see the new extension of the National Portrait Gallery(,the architects are the ones who were involved with the redevelopment of The Royal House: Jeremy Dixon and Edward Jones( The new wing is situated at the back of the National Gallery ( utilising the space of what was originally a courtyard. The idea of a National Portrait Gallery dates back to 1890, but bringing the whole thing up-to-date, there is now computerised portrait of the present-day staff, trustees, donors, builders. I suppose if you like portraits you enjoy being portrayed for the nation!!! Christopher Ondaatje - a multi-millionaire /financier/writer/ Olympic athlete, /explorer/philanthropist/art-collector and brother of Michael Ondaatje, author of "The English Patient", financed the new wing.Christopher said he was finally accepted as an Englishman when he won his colours at cricket.I suppose I will never be accepted - I do not play cricket!!! The NPG is his favourite gallery, he loves British history, and has donated £2.75 million to the gallery. The Queen unveiled the plaque, which bears his name and showed great interest in her own ancestors. It is a beautiful building with one of the longest escalators in England bar The Royal Opera House!!! The Tudor Galleries house Holbein's giant portrait of Henry VIII proudly displaying his - covered - but very protruding private parts, as did some of the cast of " The Mastersingers" - it was the fashion in those days, and was called a codpiece - the piece of leather attached to trousers, which was attached for protection.

The Tudor Gallery is in chronological order. The portrait of Elizabeth I, painted by Marcus Gheeraerts is a heroic memorial to her. People were annoyed at Margaret Thatcher's removal from the ground floor to the first but it was not because she was of less importance but that she was transferred to the right decade.

At the moment there is a retrospective exhibition Photographs by Snowdon, dating back to 1958. His first exhibition in 1958 was of theatre photographs including one of Peter Hall's wedding, polio victims in Angola, elderly people.He was originally Tony Armstrong-Jones and married the Queen's sister. He became Lord Snowdon on marriage - it is usually the bride who changes her name??!! I like very much the photo of Laurence Oliver in his of Archie Rice in "The Entertainer". Although he has done fashion photography and the Sunday Times in 1961, but he is best-known for his portraits of the Royal family.

My own favourite photo is of Barbara Cartland taken in 1988 in a very deep pink frothy gown and wearing huge false eyelashes, holding her Pekinese dog and a pink-edged, see-through umbrella. She is sitting on a garden seat with bushes of pink flowers behind her. She was un-impressed by Snowdon's small camera and offered him her own lighting equipment as well as some of her rejuvenating pills.Barbara Cartland was a writer who died this week. She had her devoted readers of her love stories, where " the prince and princess always live happily after"(Ah!!!) "Whatever love means" which is what Prince Charles said on his engagement to Diana. BC died in her 99th years, twice-married and was the step-grandmother of Princess Diana. She believed in virginity for the bride, but not for the groom - "someone has to know what they are doing on the wedding-night". Men, she believed, were " at their best in the afternoon" , so married couples should take a honeymoon each year and retire to bed in the afternoon.I agree with this!!! She wrote about real love, not sex. She was so shocked when her mother explained how babies were made, that she called off her engagement! Although invited to the marriage of Charles and Diana she did not go, because Diana and her sisters called BC's daughter Rainer, who was married to Diana's father, Acid Rain.

In the NPG there are Scientific and Medical Portraits 1660-2000; there is also a room as a theatre and a space with computers. There is also an amazing exhibition of famous Australians Resident in Britain although I did not see my friend Colin there?? But kylie Minogue - my daughter used to love her - Cate Blanchett, Elle MacPherson, Germaine Greer, Natalie Imbruglia, Elisabeth Murdoch - The Australians really have 'cool' female icons!!!

I went there for the second time to visit the exihibition dedicated to the great Dame Elizabeth Taylor of the British Empire. The exhibition celebrates her return to London to receive her DBE from the Queen at Buckingham Palace and also the Fellowship of the British Film Institute, a film tribute at the NFT and many other events to celebrate her life and career, organised by the Red Hot Aids Charitable Trust. All this to add to her three Oscar and the French Legion d'Honneur and many other awards. I was at the Taormina Film Festival once, when Richard Burton and her were on stage of the Taormina Theatre. She was so drunk that Burton had to speak for her, but now she appears to have got over most of health problems and addictions, and is very happy with her family of four children around her for the Big Day. I suppose Queen Elizabeth, for her part, was just as excited to meet this queen of the screen and have her photo taken with Elizabeth Taylor; and for the first time in her entire life she was on time. They had told her that the other Queen did not like to wait. She said she was sorry Richard Burton was not with her, and a newspaper reporter reminded her that when the welsh actor died,he was long-divorced from her, and was married to his fourth wife, actually Mrs Sally Burton, widow, who must be irritated by Taylor's possessiveness.
The exhibition was very crowded and you could see how incredibly beautiful she was - and still is - and you can follow her wonderful career as a screen legend and her married life with all her husbands. There is also a display of all the magazines which features her. She appeared mostly in Life Magazine which is coming to an end?? One Manchete, Oggi e Gente. The exhibition also features her charity work - she visited in conjunction with her charity work - and wearing her award - Cannes. For the BFI dinner in her honour Princess Margaret was to attend, but she didn't turn up - perhaps she didn't want to be upstaged by the treat star!!! But Elizabeth managed to appear for few minutes, wearing the famous Krupp diamond that Burton had bought her,(sorry Sally). She really looked beautiful for the photo-call, wearing the diamond bracelet which Michael Jackson had bought her, from Harrods,that was open specially for him!!!Her perfume " Sparkling White Diamonds "has been advertised in all the newspapers so I expect she will make some more money. Today she is having a musical celebration at the Royal Albert Hall with Charles Aznavour, Tony Bennett, Uter Lemper for the benefit of Red Hot Aids and the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation; and let's not forget the most important thing in her life - her pet dog Sugar!!! Tonight the BBC is screening an interview with her - her first for many years - about her life and career.

As Gregory Peck said last week in Cannes, stars aren't what they used to be: " the age of glamour is dead". He hasn't met me, darlings!!!

Verinha Ottoni


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