Balancing nuanced styles of western art with graphic traditions of caricature and illustration, Maria Theresa is a portrait by Julian Opie from 2011 that shows an anonymised image of a woman in formal dress. Looking out to the viewer, the sitter in this portrait holds a bright red shawl over her arms and a white rose and is shown wearing delicate jewellery and an embellished dress. Opie’s detailing in the sitter’s clothing emphasises the feeling of opulence in the portrait and provides character to the otherwise anonymous sitter.
Maria Theresa engages with the canonical art historical genre of portraiture and appears as though it were an image of a royal or aristocrat. In depicting the sitter without facial features, using a blank circle floating above her shoulders as a head, Opie subverts the traditional genre to provoke ideas surrounding what makes a portrait of a person distinct. Opie uses drastically simplified form to form the base of many of his portraits, embellishing each one with clothing, resulting in a variety of unique types.
In creating this portrait through ‘objective’ computer technologies, Opie forms a kind of ‘non’ style that disguises the artist’s hand. Much like the way in which the identity of the sitter is partially disguised, Opie contains subjectivity within a depersonalised syntax of signs.