Mary's a Cropper again

MOST of artist Andy Cropper's subjects are alive and he paints them as cut-outs on MDF.

Remember his one of city council leader Paul Scriven?

But the person in his latest picture died rather suddenly 423 years ago.

His reproduction of a painting of Mary, Queen of Scots will shortly be hanging proudly in the Turret House at Sheffield Manor Lodge, where she was imprisoned for 14 years until 1584.

It's based on the picture known as the Sheffield Portrait of Mary which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.

There's no chance of that coming to Sheffield so the next best thing was a copy.

"It's my newest painting and my oldest subject," says Andy, who is best known for his regular painting sessions which drew admiring onlookers in the Winter Garden earlier in the year.

He was commissioned by Peter Machen of Green Estates, which runs the Manor Lodge site, who saw him at work.

He provided him with the photo and Andy, from Highfield, took six months to complete the oil painting. The painting was unveiled, although it has yet to be hung, by Lord Mayor Alan Law

Andy found the Stuart technique, which involves building up a picture with layers of colour, matched his own.

"I've learned quite a lot about their techniques and the symbolism.

"For example, she wears a tiny enamel brooch showing the Biblical story of Susanna and the Elders, a woman falsely accused,"

Just to make it clear a latin tag, Angustia Undique - beseiged from all sides - has been painted on the picture.

A further Latin inscription records that Mary was aged 36 when the painting was made.

While you can't see it in our partial reproduction of the painting, she is shown touching a rosary with the spokes represented by a stylised 'S' for Stuart.

The painting is a vast improvement on what Manor Lodge had previously - "just a faded print" in Andy's words.

Green Estates' CEO Sue France says: "We feel it is a much more intriguing image than we had before.

"It's going to be joined by a number of other portraits of a variety of other figures from the period and completes the 1.2 million Heritage Lottery funded project."

The original was one of about 10 commissioned by Mary's son, James I, around 20 years after her execution in 1587.

These were all based on a miniature painted by Nicholas Hilliard while she was imprisoned in Sheffield, although each vary in different ways.

It's not known whether he visited the queen here to make the portrait.

No-one knows who painted the Sheffield Portrait but Andy's version is subtly different from the original in Edinburgh.

"Unfortunately her face is very stylised in this painting which is where mine differs .

"I wanted to try and bring some of the humanity and complexity of her character that comes out when you read her story," says Andy.

Mary came a cropper when she put her head on the block all those years ago.

And now her image has become a Cropper in 2010!

Got a view? Leave a comment below.

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