Sophie Wessex sits for sculptor while process is streamed live online

Clay to go! Countess of Wessex becomes the first member of the royal family to sit for a sculptor while process is streamed online

  • Sophie Wessex, 55, who lives in Bagshot Park, sat for a sculptor earlier today
  • Process was streamed live to raise awareness for the blind and partially sighted 
  • Royal, who is patron of Vision Foundation, spoke of the challenges people face

The Countess of Wessex has become the first member of the royal family to sit for a sculptor while the process was streamed live on the internet – to raise awareness about the blind and partially sighted.

Sophie Wessex, 55, who lives at Bagshot Park, in Surrey, sat earlier today for the acclaimed Leeds-born artist Frances Segelman who created a bust of the Countess. 

The royal, who is married to Prince Edward, 56, wore her blonde wavy locks in a low bun while the artist sculpted the intricate details of her face.

The creation of the bust was filmed and streamed online and the mother of two – to Lady Louise Windsor, 16, and 12-year-old James, Viscount Severn – was seen wearing a beautiful patterned A-Line dress. 

The Countess of Wessex, 55, who lives in Surrey,  sat patiently as sculptor Franes Segelman created the bust and carved out the intricate details of the royal’s face

The sculpting process, done by the Leeds-born artist, was live streamed online for people to watch, something never before done by a member of the royal family


Once it is complete, the tactile piece of art will be unveiled next year and will allow blind and partially sighted people the chance to feel the Countess of Wessex’s likeness

Once complete, the piece of tactile art will be unveiled in 2021 to mark The Vision Foundation’s centenary and will allow blind and partially sighted people to feel Sophie’s likeness.

After the sculpture session Sophie, who is patron of charity Vision Foundation, spoke of the challenges faced during the Covid-19 pandemic by those who are unable to see.

She said: ‘For the blind and partially sighted amongst us, these past months have been especially challenging.

‘However, through the care that the Vision Foundation has extended to those in difficulty, I am hopeful that the people we care for will feel empowered within their communities.’ 

The creation of the bust was filmed and streamed online and the mother of two – to Lady Louise Windsor, 16, and 12-year-old James, Viscount Severn – was seen wearing a beautiful patterned A-Line dress

In order to ensure she got every single part of her face correct, the artist asked the Countess to move position in order to see different angles

The countess added: ‘Thank you to Frances for sculpting my face today. 

‘This sculpture, and the faces of many others, will allow the blind and partially sighted to see through touch and so to more vividly imagine their world.

‘Whether you are a long-time supporter or friend of the Vision Foundation, or you are new to us, thank you for your vital support, and I would encourage you all to speak to the Foundation team to find out more about our work and explore how you can play a part in bringing the world to within closer reach for those who struggle to see it.’

The sculptor, who is also Lady Petchey, is well known for her busts of royalty and celebrities and completed a bronze bust of the Queen in 2008.

After the sculpture session Sophie, who is patron of charity Vision Foundation, spoke of the challenges faced during the Covid-19 pandemic by those who are unable to see

Describing the sitting with the Queen she said: ‘She’s a very special person. She came in the room and she was so calm and so poised and so willing to change her tiara, to change the jewellery, to try different things on and she seems so ordinary.

‘She was sitting on a slightly higher area than I was sculpting so I had to measure her with calipers so I was going backwards and forwards from her hair. I was so nervous, you know, I was touching the Queen!’

She also completed sculptures of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cambridge, The Princess Royal and the Duke of Kent.

Sophie has been Vision Foundation’s patron since 2003, supporting the charity which funds and support projects that involve and empower blind and partially sighted people.

The Countess of Wessex, Prince Edward’s wife, thanked Frances for sculpting her face which will allow the blind and partially sighted to see through touch and as a result envisage the world around them a little more

While the Countess is the first royal to be sculpted during a live stream, other members are familiar with the experience – even having Frances, who is also Lady Petchey, complete busts of them

Olivia Curno, chief executive of the charity, said it exists to work towards changing public attitudes.

She added: ‘Covid has been a major challenge. Many have been frightened for their own futures. We have lobbied the Government to make the blind and partially sighted a priority for things like shopping lists during he lockdown.’

YouTuber and freelance BBC broadcaster Lucy Edwards said: ‘Covid has slowed my work down a bit as I haven’t been able to get into London. But I’ve been busy on TikTok and had eight million people tuning in.’

The Vision Foundation advocate added: ‘It is a critical issue. In the months to come we cannot socially distance. My guide dog is nearing retirement and that brings more anxiety. 

Frances also completed a bronze bust of the Queen in 2008, and described her as a ‘very special person’ who was ‘so calm and so poised’. She also said the Queen seemed ‘so ordinary’

The sculptor has also completed sculptures of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cambridge, The Princess Royal and the Duke of Kent. It is hoped the new bust will work towards changing public attitudes

‘So I am just a bit apprehensive. We are capable, amazing human beings and we are here to be counted.’

Sophie’s appearance today comes after she boarded a helicopter when marking the 21st anniversary of Thames Valley Air Ambulance (TVAA) during a royal visit. 

The royal, who is the patron of the TVAA and toured an airfield in Berkshire, met a crew and was shown advanced medical equipment on board their chopper earlier this month.

Sophie has been Vision Foundation’s patron since 2003, supporting the charity which funds and support projects that involve and empower blind and partially sighted people

The charity is of great significance to Sophie – who lost her first baby in December 2001 – because she was airlifted to hospital by a Thames Valley helicopter following her potentially life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.

Discovering the baby had developed outside the womb, the royal underwent a two-and-a-half-hour operation, during which surgeons removed the foetus from her Fallopian tube. 

Sophie, who had been some six weeks pregnant, was said to be tearful and ‘unbelievably sad’ at the time.

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