A mental case of dental envy

When people get recognised for something, occasionally they may develop a know-it-all attitude that makes them lose up to 50% of their sense of reality, some friends, and – occasionally –  teeth (men) or hair (women). The latter usually happens in the process of severing connections with those friends for whom leaving without a parting souvenir is unacceptable.

The “Know-it-alls” send evolution backwards, at least for their followers and admirers. Because if they know it all, there’s no point in searching for any new truths.

I stumbled today on a good example of this, in the Independent.

The Independent reports on a public lecture about Kate Middleton delivered by  Hilary Mantel, the author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, the acclaimed novels which detail the failure of Henry VIII’s wives to produce an heir.

[I was not aware people would be interested in a cross between gynecology and history. Almost archeological gynecology. Amazing] Among other things, the acclaimed gyno-historian said:

“Presumably Kate was designed to breed in some manners. She looks like a nicely brought up young lady, with ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ part of her vocabulary.” But in her first official portrait since marrying William, painted by Paul Emsley and unveiled last month, “her eyes are dead.

What?! Come on. I hate it when people dress up their theories with false interpretations. Even more than I dislike the concept of royal blood being something special genetically.

This is the portrait.

The eyes are perfect. The use of ochre browns makes them LIVE and lively: dead eyes do not absorb colours from the outside. The artist painted the pupils rather contracted (which means that the gaze is alive and focused). Our brain can not interpret eyes with contracted pupils as dead. It is programmed not to.

This is the full portrait. I can only assume that the artist felt he did not know Kate enough to use body or hand language as a tool in his work. So the artist, actually, settled for the eyes to communicate with the viewer.

I think, not using hands was a safe option, but far from the ideal.

That’s a pity, because Kate does seem to have very expressive hands. Ms Middleton is not very shy about showing her middle finger (is it built in the name?), even to the artist who painted her first official portrait!

Kate Middleton talking to the artist

In this pic, she probably thanks him. But subconsciously she’s unhappy that the artist did not use her hands in the portrait. No doubt about that. On a side-line, if you know the maker of the purse she’s clutching, I have a slogan for them: “Brand X: The Princely Excuse for F*ck Off”.

I am not saying Ms Mantel was wrong to get the impression that the eyes were dead, even though they were painted alive. She got the impression she’d got, that’s all right. She was wrong to present her impression as the absolute verdict, for it doesn’t stand even a simple cross-examination. The more interesting question is, why did she get this impression?

It is time to face the novelist. don’t you think?

Hilary Mantel

Let’s look her in the eyes. Contracted pupils. Fine. She’s alive. Plucked eyebrows. Oh, she’s kicking. But it is the dental care in the UK that seems to be dead. Or I’ve just nailed down the driving force behind Ms Mantel’s derogatory tirade about Kate Middleton. Dental envy. The good news, it can be cured.


  1. I had missed this one! Interesting to see it after reading your post on the BP Portrait Awards 🙂 I remember that some described Kate Middlleton’s expression in this portrait as “mean”. I don’t see much more than a PR-approved photo executed by a human xerox machine. The art portraiture is lost in favour of the trickery of the execution.

    1. I read somewhere there were proper sittings for this painting. But again, my impression is that the artist didn’t have the time (or the will or permission) to get to know Kate well. And I tried to read and listen to Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. And I failed. It is not literature. It is something else )

  2. I heard about all the criticism around this royal portrait and I don’t know. I think it’s good. Not traditional, but it’s well executed and says even more because Kate Middleton wanted it to be something fresh. If this is how she wanted to be portrayed, then I think that’s pretty cool. Great post as always, my friend! – Ives

    1. Thank you! In fact, since I wrote this post, I’ve checked out her books. It is complete bullshit from the historical point of view. I happen to know relatively much about the period she’s writing about, for an average Russian that is, and I was amazed at how she could get so popular with so outrageous fantasies. Anyway, I am a bit uneasy now. She turns out to be a very ill woman, with an elephant burden of psychological problems, so that was not good to punch at her… She’s just very ill, indeed.

    1. Royals believe they are special because of their blood, Ms Mantel is sure she’s on a higher plane of existence compared to the ordinary folk because of her mind. Both are mistaken 😉

  3. “But it is the dental care in the UK that seems to be dead.” Oh my. You do pack a punch, dont’cha? This was fun – and a bit naughty, which is even better. Cheers.

    1. My friends say I am a difficult person to argue with. The only person who can argue her case better than me is my wife. But she’s a clinical neuropsychologist. You can’t argue with someone who knows exactly why, when and which neurons are fired up in your brain!

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