‘Looks like she’s had 18 pints’


The London Free Press - - NP - thop­per@na­tion­al­post.com

The Bri­tish town of Ch­ester­field re­cently un­veiled a “well dress­ing” de­pict­ing the late Diana, Princess of Wales, made en­tirely of flo­ral ma­te­ri­als. Pub­lic re­sponse was less than lov­ing: “I can’t re­mem­ber her hav­ing a stroke,” reads one of hun­dreds of snarky com­ments posted to the town’s Face­book page. The Na­tional Post’s Tristin Hop­per ex­am­ines the ways in which Ch­ester­field may have erred.


Diana took a bit more in­ter­est in her den­tal health than this im­age sug­gests, but what’s more strik­ing is the ut­ter lack of en­thu­si­asm in her ex­pres­sion. While this is ob­vi­ously not Diana at her best, it does per­fectly cap­ture a phe­nom­e­non known to all roy­als: The Pained Smile. Even as they en­dure an end­less odyssey of rib­bon-cut­tings and com­mand per­for­mances, Bri­tish roy­als are not al­lowed to be­tray their true emo­tions. As a re­sult, they of­ten hide it be­hind an ex­pres­sion that is equal parts ter­ror and amuse­ment.


Even at the height of the hair­spray-crazed 1980s, Diana’s hair never came close to achiev­ing the epic size de­picted here. How­ever, this might be due to cost more than any­thing. Diana’s face is made from flower petals, a scarce and ex­pen­sive com­mod­ity at the best of times. Her hair, how­ever, ap­pears to be con­structed from a kind of grass, whose rel­a­tive abun­dance likely made it a pri­or­ity ma­te­rial.


Diana’s eyes, of course, were of equiv­a­lent size and shape. Fa­cial sym­me­try, in fact, was a pri­mary con­trib­u­tor to her famed beauty. Ch­ester­field, though, de­picted one eye as an Egyp­tian hi­ero­glyphic and the other as a yoni. “Looks like she’s had 18 pints and a gram of ket,” de­clared Birm­ing­ham’s Adam Lawrence (in the U.K., “ket” refers to the drug ke­tamine).


The well dress­ing is meant to com­mem­o­rate the 20th an­niver­sary of Diana’s death in a Paris car crash. Nor­mally, trib­utes to a de­ceased per­son de­pict the dates of their life, rather than tal­ly­ing up the years they’ve been gone. “Can’t be­lieve she was only 20 when she died,” wrote Portsmouth res­i­dent Jack Mar­shall.


Grass and flower petals can be an ex­tremely un­for­giv­ing medium for the de­pic­tion of hu­man forms — par­tic­u­larly when con­structed by vol­un­teers. As a re­sult, Ch­ester­field is a vic­tim of its own ambitions. While most well-dress­ing artists would stick to such safe themes as build­ings or an­i­mals, Ch­ester­field con­sis­tently chooses hu­man forms. Pre­vi­ous en­deav­ours have in­cluded a flo­ral ver­sion of Queen El­iz­a­beth on her Di­a­mond Ju­bilee in 2012.


Re­mem­ber the coin — com­mem­o­rat­ing their en­gage­ment — that de­picted Kate Mid­dle­ton as an un­rec­og­niz­able stranger star­ing icily at Prince Wil­liam? To be a mem­ber of the Royal Fam­ily is to be one of the most pho­tographed and ar­tis­ti­cally ren­dered per­son­ages in the world. At the time of her death, it was es­ti­mated there were more pho­to­graphs of Diana than any other woman in his­tory (although, in the age of dig­i­tal cam­eras, this record has al­most cer­tainly been smashed). Nat­u­rally, with so many avatars float­ing around, some of them aren’t go­ing to be so good. Je­sus, Elvis, Al­bert Ein­stein and Abra­ham Lin­coln all have the same prob­lem.

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