Raphael Maklouf Sculpts a New Image of the Queen to Grace the Coin of the Realm
From now on when people ask Raphael Maklouf what sort of work he does, the answer is in his pocket. "I will be able to pull out a handful of change and show them," says the 47-year-old British sculptor. Maklouf has designed the image of Queen Elizabeth II that will appear on British coins and bank notes beginning in January. His version replaces the younger profile of the Queen, now 58, that has been on British currency since 1968.
Maklouf's design was selected last November by the Royal Mint's advisory committee—beating out entries from 16 other artists. Inevitably, critics abounded. "Someone on television told me I made her look too young and I told the guy he needed glasses," says Maklouf. Then there's the flip side of the coin: criticism that the image is too severe. Counters Maklouf, "It's impossible in sculpture to make someone smiling with teeth. Sculpture should show the inner truth."
For the competition, Maklouf worked from a photograph of the Queen taken by Lord Snowdon. But to create the clay bust from which the coins would be modeled, he requested one, then was granted a second sitting with Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace last December. "On television, you get this formal image," says Maklouf. "But when she's relaxed and talking, she is very different, absolutely friendly, making jokes all the time—even mimicking people."
Born in Jerusalem, Maklouf, the son of an antiques dealer, says a boyhood eye disease that made reading and writing difficult shaped his interest in sculpture. He lives in Richmond, Surrey with his artist wife, Marilyn, and three children. Maklouf received $3,275 for updating the Queen's image and hopes his heightened recognition will enhance the status of his craft. "Sculpture used to be popular—look at how many busts were done of Queen Victoria," he says. "I want to rekindle that interest."
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