The Countess of Wessex became 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.
Afterwards Sophie, 55, 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 a bust of the countess by acclaimed Leeds-born artist Frances Segelman was filmed and streamed online.
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 tactile piece of art will be unveiled in 2021 to mark The Vision Foundation’s centenary and allow blind and partially sighted people to feel Sophie’s likeness.
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.
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.
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.
“So I am just a bit apprehensive. We are capable, amazing human beings and we are here to be counted.”