27 March 2014 at 12.53pm | 1 Comment
The larger-than-life-sized portrait by Tehran-born artist Saied Dai sees Dame Monica in a commanding pose, holding a mask and looking sideways at the viewer, reflecting her careers as a graceful ballerina and Company director.
‘The paradox of painting is that whilst the image is static and inert, on examination it must reveal movement and life,' says Saied. 'This was especially so in the case of a dancer. I was conscious of not resorting to any cliché about dance. Since Dame Monica Mason has spent her whole working life performing through 'masks', it appeared to be a fruitful metaphor to pursue.
The dancer-turned-Director’s career with the Company spanned 54 years, both on stage and behind the scenes. Born in South Africa, Monica joined The Royal Ballet in 1958 as the youngest member of the corps de ballet before rising to the rank of Principal, acclaimed for her interpretations of major roles including Odette/Odile in Swan Lake and Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty. She also famously created the demanding role of the Chosen Maiden in Kenneth MacMillan’s The Rite of Spring. On retiring from dancing, she joined the Company’s administrative staff, becoming Director of The Royal Ballet in 2002.
The gallery's collections contain a number of ballet-related paintings, sculptures and photographs. Among these are 44 works featuring Margot Fonteyn, eight featuring Rudolf Nureyev, and four featuring Kenneth MacMillan.
The portrait is on display in Room 32 at the National Portrait Gallery. Admission is free.