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Portrait of Baroness Benjamin on loan to the House of Lords

A portrait of Baroness Benjamin is now on display in the House of Lords, on loan to the House through the Lord Speaker’s Advisory Panel on Works of Art. The painting, by leading portraitist June Mendoza, is on display in the Cholmondeley Room for Peers, staff, and guests to view. It is the first portrait of Baroness Benjamin to be displayed in the Houses of Parliament.

A portrait of a black woman in a pale pink ballerina outfit. The painting is in a golden gilded frame, hung on a wall with red patterned wallpaper. Beneath the painting there is a table laid with a white tablecloth and two chairs, and a patterned screen divider on the left. The wall has wood panelling up to the wallpaper.
Portrait of Baroness Benjamin hanging in the Cholmondeley Room in the House of Lords. Painting by June Mendoza. © The artist. Photo Credit: UK Parliament/Andy Bailey

About Baroness Benjamin

Baroness Benjamin was elevated to the House of Lords in 2010 as a Liberal Democrat Peer. Her membership of the House follows a successful career in broadcasting and film. Benjamin has written over 30 books, including the celebrated Coming to England (1995). The book explores the journey of the Windrush generation and is taught in schools and universities.  Benjamin was Chancellor of the University of Exeter for ten years. Queen Elizabeth II granted her an OBE in 2001 in recognition of her cultural contributions to the country. She also won the J.M. Barrie Lifetime Award in 2012. 

Baroness Benjamin is the first female Trinidadian to sit in the Lords.  As part of her work for the House, she promotes children’s rights and wellbeing and set up two All Party Parliamentary Groups – one on a Fit and Healthy Childhood and the other on Children’s Media & the Arts, for which she continues to serve as co-chair.  She also speaks widely on questions of diversity and inclusion and on media issues.  

Benjamin has been the Chair of the Windrush Commemoration Committee since 2018. The group advise how to best to create “a permanent and fitting tribute to the Windrush generation and their descendants.”

In July 2022 Baroness Benjamin introduced her first Private Bill, the Certificate of Loss Bill [HL] 2022-23 on the provision of recording stillbirths and miscarriages.

A full length portrait of a black woman in a light pink ballerina outfit. She is looking towards the viewer with a neutral facial expression, and her hands are clasped in front of her. Her dark hair has tight curls and is tied up. She is wearing a tutu and skirt, and a long sleeve matching cropped jacket, with tights and pointed heeled shoes on. She is also wearing a pearl necklace and drop earrings. 
Behind the woman is vertical striped wallpaper in a light pink and mauve colour. She is standing on plain flooring. The painting is realist and detailed, showing the pleats of the tutu. It is in a golden frame.
Baroness Floella Benjamin, Painting by June Mendoza. © The artist. Photo Credit: UK Parliament/Andy Bailey

About the artwork

June Mendoza (born 1924) painted this oil portrait. The Australia-born artist has emerged as one of the foremost portraitists of the 20th and 21st centuries. The British Royal Family have sat for Mendoza numerous times, including Queen Elizabeth II on five occasions. Mendoza exhibits her works internationally, and numerous national collections contain her artworks, including the National Portrait Gallery. Other works in the Parliamentary Art Collection by June Mendoza include a scene from the House of Commons in 1986 and a portrait of John Major.

Baroness Benjamin told The Telegraph in 2007:

[Mendoza] picked out my tutu from my wardrobe for me to wear. The dress was designed by an eccentric ex-couturier seamstress in France who made one-offs to sell in her little shop. When June sketched me, suddenly her face looked stern, her eyes were piercing, and she started drawing very quickly. She captured me brilliantly.

The Lord Speaker’s Advisory Panel on Works of Art 

The Panel comprises of a cross-bench group of peers appointed by the Lord Speaker. Members advise on the use of the Parliamentary Art Collection and on new purchases, commissions, and loans in the House of Lords. Find out more about the Parliamentary Art Collection and how it is managed.

February 22, 2023