A striking portrait of the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, the current Bishop of Bath and Wells, has been unveiled.
The 5 ft 5 ins (1.65m) x 3 ft 2 ins (1m) portrait – which took over 1,000-hours to create – has been painted by local artist Richard Shepherd and is now on display at The Bishop’s Palace in Wells.
It continues a tradition which dates back to the 15th-Century when the oldest portrait in the collection at the Bishop’s Palace, that of Bishop Fox, was painted.
Bishop Peter first met the artist Richard Shepherd when he was visiting Abbey House, a retreat in Glastonbury. At the time Mr Shepherd – who previously painted Bishop Peter Maurice, the former Bishop of Taunton – was using part of the attic at Abbey House as his studio.
Mr Shepherd said: “I met Peter Maurice at a social event and really liked the shape of his face so I rather cheekily asked him if I could paint him.
“It was a real honour when Bishop Peter commissioned me to paint his official portrait.
“Through this process I got to know him well, he is a kind and understanding man.”
This is the first time that Mr Shepherd has painted an official portrait, and one on this scale.
The Diocese of Bath and Wells was founded in 909AD and Bishop Peter became the 79th Bishop of Bath of Wells in 2014.
He said: “When I walk along the Long Gallery in the Bishop’s Palace and see all the portraits of former bishops I am reminded of the previous generations of people who have known God’s love and care throughout the centuries.
“It is humbling and inspiring to look back and think of the prayer and worship of countless others through the years, but also exciting to be looking forward to see where God is leading us in the future.”
Bishop Peter attended numerous sittings, including two-hours where Mr Shepherd, who likes to work in fine detail, concentrated just on Bishop Peter’s face.
Mr Shepherd said: “It was quite a challenge to fight my desire to keep going back and fine tuning every little detail of the portrait.”
It’s this attention to detail which has taken Richard more than 1,000-hours to complete the portrait. He has worked painstakingly, with the tiniest of brushes. One of the toughest areas for him was to recreate the fabric of the Coronation Cope which Bishop Peter is wearing in the portrait.
The cope is an historic piece from the collection at the Bishop’s Palace. It was commissioned for Bishop Kennion to wear at the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, and has since been worn for the coronations of King George V and King George VI. It was last worn in 1953 for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The long cloak is made of velvet and is ornately embroidered with gold and silver thread.
Mr Shepherd added: “I wanted the painting to be extremely lifelike so the viewer feels they can almost touch the fabric.”
The portrait is on display in the Drawing Room of The Bishop’s Palace, opposite the Coronation Cope.
For opening times and more details, visit The Bishop’s Palace website.