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Freud to paint Queen's portrait

LUCIAN FREUD, whose unforgiving portraits have earned him the reputation of the world's greatest living realist painter, has provisionally agreed to paint the Queen.

Among the 76-year-old artist's conditions is that Her Majesty travel to his west London studio for her sittings. He is also understood to have requested that the Queen endure 72 sittings, unlike her normal 5, but subsequently relaxed this term.

In the past Freud has refused to paint a number of notables, including the Pope and Diana, Princess of Wales. His provisional agreement to paint the monarch, which follows six years of delicate negotiations by her confidant, Sir Robert Fellowes, was welcomed by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RSPP) yesterday.

"If one of our greatest living painters actually manages to paint the Queen and paint her properly, without all this nonsense of only being allowed five one-hour sittings, then we will all raise an enormous cheer," said Daphne Todd, president of the RSPP.

"A lot of royal portraits are sycophantic ... Provided Lucian Freud is not daunted by the rigmarole of royalty, it will be a better painting than most."

The Queen, who is 72, sits for about six portraits a year, most of them destined for regimental messes. If the Freud project goes ahead it is understood she would pose in informal dress, for a head-and-shoulders portrait. Well-known for her lack of vanity, the Queen is unlikely to be offended by an unflattering result.