The Countess of Wessex made history on Wednesday as she became the first member of the royal family to sit for a live sculpting session in support of one of her patronages.
Sophie, 55, joined Frances Segelman at her London studio as the sculptor created the bust designed for blind and partially sighted people as part of a special event for the Vision Foundation.
Once completed, the bust will provide an opportunity for blind and partially sighted people to know the Countess of Wessex’s likeness, as part of the Vision Foundation's effort to help blind and partially sighted people access art in a meaningful way.
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The Countess spoke of the challenges faced during the Covid-19 pandemic by those who are unable to see saying: "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."
Sophie visited Frances at her London studio
Sophie 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."
Sophie made royal history
During the two-hour session, the charity's advocates Dr Amit Patel and broadcaster Lucy Edwards shared information with the virtual audience about the work of the charity, and how blind and partially sighted people have been affected by COVID-19, lockdown and social distancing measures.
Dr Patel, a medical doctor, lost his sight at the age of 32 and works today to improve public understanding about what life is like with a visual impairment.
The Countess of Wessex sat for two hours
YouTuber and disability rights campaigner, Lucy, lost her eyesight at 17 and has had to learn to navigate life again with sight loss. She became the first blind presenter to host a show on BBC Radio 1 in 2019.
After the sculpting, Sophie joined Frances for a short Q&A about the sculpture, which will be gifted to the Vision Foundation. The finished bust will be cast in bronze and unveiled during the charity’s centenary year in 2021.
Sophie has been the organisation's patron since 2003, having taken over the role from the Queen Mother.
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Frances created this bronze bust of the Queen in 2008
Frances is known for her sculptures of royalty and celebrities, including a bronze bust of the Queen in 2008. In a previous interview with HELLO! in 2017, Frances said of Her Majesty: "She's just an amazing lady. I literally almost cried when I was leaving because I felt that I'd learned so much just being in her presence. 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 callipers so I was going backwards and forwards from her hair! I was so nervous, you know, I was touching the Queen!"
The sculptor has also created works of the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal and the Duke of Kent, as well as a whole host of celebrities and famous faces.
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