Council News

Official Portrait of 79th Bishop of Bath & Wells Unveiled at the Palace

Friday 14 September, 2018

Official Portrait of 79th Bishop of Bath & Wells Unveiled at the Palace

 A striking portrait of the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, the current Bishop of Bath and Wells has been unveiled and is now on display at The Bishop’s Palace in Wells.

The portrait has been painted by local artist Richard Shepherd and continues a tradition which dates back to the 15th century when the oldest portrait in the collection at the Bishop’s Palace, that of Bishop Fox, was painted.

 Bishop of Bath and Wells

Bishop Peter first met the artist Richard Shepherd when he was visiting Abbey House, a retreat in Glastonbury. At the time Richard was using part of the attic at Abbey House as his studio. But Richard isn’t new to painting Bishops; he’s previously painted Bishop Peter Maurice, the former Bishop of Taunton. Richard says, “I met Peter Maurice at a social event and really liked the shape of his face, so I rather cheekily asked him if I could paint him.”

This is the first time though that Richard has painted an official portrait and one on this scale.  The portrait measures 1.65m x 1m. Richard says, “It was a real honour when Bishop Peter commissioned me to paint his official portrait. Through this process I got to know him well, he is a kind and understanding man.”

The Diocese was founded in 909AD and Bishop Peter became the 79th Bishop of Bath of Wells in 2014.  He says, “When I walk along the Long Gallery in the Bishop’s Palace and see all the portraits of former bishops I am reminded of the previous generations of people who have known God’s love and care and throughout the centuries. It is humbling and inspiring to look back and think of the prayer and worship of countless others through the years, but also exciting to be looking forward to see where God is leading us in the future.”

Bishop Peter attended numerous sittings for Richard, including two hours where Richard, who likes to work in fine detail, concentrated just on Bishop Peter’s face. Richard says “It was quite a challenge to fight my desire to keep going back and fine tuning every little detail of the portrait.”

It’s this attention to detail which has taken Richard more than 1000 hours to complete the portrait. He has worked painstakingly, with the tiniest of brushes. One of the toughest areas for him has been to recreate the fabric of the Coronation Cope* which Bishop Peter is wearing in the portrait.

The cope is an historic piece from collection at the Bishop’s Palace and was last worn in 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It is made of velvet and is ornately embroidered with gold and silver thread. “I wanted the painting to be extremely lifelike so the viewer feels they can almost touch the fabric,” adds Richard.

The portrait is on display in the Drawing Room of The Bishop’s Palace, opposite the Coronation Cope and the Palace is open 10am-6pm until 27th October and 10am-4pm from 28th October  22nd December.

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