Blackadder portrait unveiled ahead of 40th anniversary fools onlookers
A new portrait of Edmund Blackadder was secretly installed overnight at Audley End House to mark the 40th anniversary of the beloved TV series.
Visitors were left scratching their heads as they stumbled across the oil painting hanging in the Great Hall of the historic Jacobean mansion in Essex, mistaking the portrait of Blackadder for Shakespeare, Sir Walter-Raleigh, and even Henry VIII.
The stunt was orchestrated by TV channel Gold, which is marking the 40th anniversary of the series with a month-long celebration. The celebration includes two new documentaries Blackadder: A Cunning Story and Blackadder: The Lost Pilot – which includes the first TV outing for the original Blackadder pilot.
The painting, created by artist Tom Croft, shows the much-loved Rowan Atkinson character in his Elizabethan attire, painted in a classical oil on canvas style and completed with an ornate gold frame. Tom painted the portrait across 60 hours, after rewatching series two of Blackadder repeatedly for reference.
Reactions to the painting were captured in a new video featuring actor Tony Robinson, who famously played Baldrick, Blackadder’s servant and sidekick, and who cunningly helped sneak the portrait into the house.
Tony Robinson said: “What an honour to have been asked to unveil this incredible painting – and what a cunning plan to have it installed by Gold in such an extraordinary location to celebrate 40 years of Blackadder.
“Tom Croft did an amazing job at capturing Edmund’s witty expression, and I know Baldrick would be thrilled to see his hero hanging at Audley End House.”
Peter Moore, English Heritage’s curator of collections and Interiors at Audley End House, added: “At English Heritage we care for a remarkable collection of paintings, and the walls of Audley End House are hung with masterpieces by the likes of Hans Holbein and Sir Anthony Van Dyck.
“We also have an extensive collection of royal portraits, including Elizabeth I herself, so it seems only fitting that her court nobleman Edmund Blackadder should be displayed alongside her. After all, he’s been TV royalty in his own right for the past 40 years.”
New research by the channel finds that almost three quarters (71 per cent) of Brits agree that Blackadder is the funniest UK sitcom of all time. Baldrick has also been voted the nation’s second favourite character with 62 per cent of Brits in agreement, only after Blackadder himself at 81 per cent.
According to those surveyed, Blackadder taunting Samuel Johnson with his vocabulary is the funniest Blackadder moment ever – taking 41 per cent of the vote. The scene sees Johnson, played by the late Robbie Coltrane, marvelling in his completion of the first ever dictionary, only for Edmund to offer him his “enthusiastic contrafibularities”.
Gerald Casey, Gold channel director, said: “40 years on since the show began, the nation still loves Blackadder just as much. From Edmund’s wit to Baldrick’s cunning plans, we knew we wanted to celebrate the iconic show in a way that celebrated its humour and history.
“This portrait is an incredible tribute to a much-loved character, and we’re so thankful to have had Tony Robinson help us to unveil it. We’re excited for comedy fans across the UK to celebrate this momentous anniversary with us on Gold and enjoy the brand-new documentaries that show Blackadder as you’ve never seen it before.”
Catch all episodes of Blackadder from the start on Gold from today (Thursday, June 1), ahead of the 40th anniversary on June 15. Plus, see new documentaries Blackadder: The Lost Pilot on June 15 at 9pm and Blackadder: A Cunning Story on June 16 at 9pm, only on Gold.