Hidden portrait of the Queen with 'a too long neck' finally goes on display after 61 years

John Napper's portrait was criticised for being a poor likeness of the young Elizabeth

A portrait of the Queen hidden from public view for 61 years has finally gone on display today.

John Napper’s portrait of the Queen was commissioned to mark her accession to the throne in 1953 by Liverpool Corporation, but the council rejected the painting as not a good likeness - the main criticism being that her neck was too long.

Napper later conceded that it was "a beautiful painting of a Queen, but not this Queen".

Liverpool Corporation instead commissioned Edward Irvine Halliday to paint another picture which is still on display today in Liverpool Town Hall.

A campaign has been underway within National Museums Liverpool to bring back the original Napper painting to St George’s Hall.

The painting is now on display on the third floor staircase next to the Grand Jury room where Citizenship ceremonies take place on a regular basis.

Napper, who died in 2001 aged 84, also painted Lady Churchill during the 1950s.

Liverpool City Council’s cabinet member for culture and tourism, Councillor Wendy Simon, said: “It’s wonderful that the original portrait has been installed in the Hall and it will be one of the first paintings people see if they come to get married, have a civil partnership or attend a citizenship ceremony.

“Whatever your views, it’s a real talking point and I’m sure it will generate lots of debate in its new home.”

The unveiling of Napper’s portrait comes just days after the first official portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge was roundly panned by the critics.

Paul Emsley's portrait of the former Kate Middleton, 31, was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in London to mixed critical response.

The Independent’s Michael Glover called it “a catastrophe”, writing: “It is a face which is beginning to look just a touch dropsical. It sags a little, ageing it needlessly. The cheeks incline towards the hamsterish. And what of this - ah! - hair? It is hair whose featheriness has been borrowed from an advert for shampoo."

Daily Mail art critic Robin Simon said:"I'm really sad to say this is a rotten portrait."

Guardian arts writer Charlotte Higgins said that Kate's mouth looked clenched, her eyes looked dead, and that the whole thing had "sepulchral gloom" about it.

"Kate Middleton is — whatever you think of the monarchy and all its inane surrounding pomp — a pretty young woman with an infectious smile, a cascade of chestnut hair and a healthy bloom," she said. "So how is it that she has been transformed into something unpleasant from the Twilight franchise?

Click here or on "View Images" for more portraits of the Queen

Queen portraits:

George Condo: Dubbed the Cabbage Patch Queen, Condo's 2006 painting was dismissed as "embarrassingly bad" by the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. The Tate Modern said it was "interesting".

Annie Leibovitz: The end result was stunning, but Leibovitz's 2007 photograph, featured in a BBC documentary, pictured, was mired in controversy. "She couldn't be bothered and I admired her for that," Leibovitz said.

Antony Williams: The Queen was understood to have hated this 1996 portrait, which aged her and gave her "sausage fingers". But it was in keeping with the artist's honest and sober style.

Lucian Freud: This effort from 2001 divided the critics. Some said Freud had "got beneath the powder". Another claimed "the neck would not disgrace a rugby prop forward".

Terence Cuneo: Though Cuneo is more renowned for his paintings of railways and military scenes, his appointment as the official artist for the Queen's Coronation yielded pleasing results.

Rolf Harris: The musician and TV presenter's 2005 portrait was described as "unflattering". Harris wanted to portray a friendly and humorous Queen. "I've done the best I can," he said.

By Liam O'Brien

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