Queen Elizabeth II and Frankel: Capturing greatness

Story highlights

  • "Frankel the Great" portrait to be unveiled at Ascot Racecourse
  • The 3D image was created by artist Chris Levine
  • Levine photographer British monarch Queen Elizabeth in 2004
  • Kate Moss and Grace Jones have also posed for Levine

Never work with children or animals they say.

But for artist Chris Levine, who has previously photographed Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, the opportunity to digitally capture super horse Frankel in portrait was just too good an opportunity to turn down.

After all, it's not often you are given the chance to capture greatness.

For an artist who has worked with supermodel Kate Moss and diva Grace Jones this was an assignment harder that it might seem.

He spent two days with Frankel -- the first horse he has shot -- to produce his otherworldly 3D image of the stallion.

"On the light box he literally is luminescent," said Levine of his work, set to be unveiled on Champions Day at Ascot Racecourse this weekend. "It somehow goes beyond the physical and into the spiritual.

"This beautiful creature is a divine creation ... Life is a pretty miraculous phenomenon that we're all part of, it's an unfolding miracle. An animal like Frankel, if you contemplate it, is a divine creation."

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Levine's striking portrait of the Queen -- entitled "Lightness of Being" -- was unveiled in 2004 and the photographer suggests sport's foremost thoroughbred shares a magisterial quality with the world's most famous monarch.

The artist depicted the Queen in full white regalia with her eyes closed almost as if she was inhaling the essence of power.

"They're supreme beings with iconic status," Levine told CNN. "We were really interested in shooting icons, they don't necessarily have to be human icons.

"I saw it when I looked at (Frankel's) head shot, you could see that this really was a great being.

"For some reason it made me think of emperors on a coin, you get a profile shot of a head of state, somehow it was aligning with that contextually."

While Queen Elizabeth's reign is very much ongoing, Frankel ended his two-year racing career with a perfect 14-0 winning record.

He is now enjoying a lucrative retirement with trainers paying £125,000 ($199,000) to breed their mares with ahorse

"Frankel is a superstar," explained Levine. "He's got a huge following. It was a real challenge, to take it somewhere different in the land of equine images, portraiture and art.

"I wanted to do something that portrayed Frankel as extraordinary. He really is an octave about greatness. I wanted to convey the extremity of what he is."

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Frankel: Super freak to super stud?
Frankel: Super freak to super stud?


    Frankel: Super freak to super stud?


Frankel: Super freak to super stud? 02:30

The finished product, which is 1.2 meters wide and 90 centimeters high, is the culmination of months of work which began when Levine asked to photograph Frankel.

"We got an enthusiastic response and they were terrific and made Frankel available to me," said Levine.

"We wanted to shoot the horse in direct sunlight because that would really show his coat.

"We had about six days on standby waiting on the weather, we shot it in two days. In terms of post-production and editing it's been about two months."

Frankel might not be racing any longer but it didn't take long for Levine to understand why this horse transcended its sport.

"You take the bridle off and this is a horse that is so pumped up that it will just go," he said. "At that level it is just supercharged. That was my first challenge.

"In the end I shot it in the stable. We did a lot of shots of the horse outside, but he was always being held back. He had so much vitality and energy.

"He's used to having photos taken of him, he's a superstar. He actually likes the attention and you can kind of tell."

Levine is not the first artist to draw inspiration from Frankel. British surrealist painter Mick Kirkbride depicted the horse leaping out of a television set following its demolition of the field in 2011's 2000 Guineas race.

The global spotlight isn't Frankel's alone.

Frankel ends career in dramatic style
Frankel ends career in dramatic style


    Frankel ends career in dramatic style


Frankel ends career in dramatic style 01:37
winning post horse frankel farewell ascot_00001230
winning post horse frankel farewell ascot_00001230


    Frankel's big farewell


Frankel's big farewell 01:24

Equestrian's "Super Mare" Black Caviar retired in April this year with a record which puts her male rival's in the shade, winning all 25 of her races.

Horse racing's first lady earned legions of fans in her homeland of Australia, even gracing the cover of the country's edition of prestigious fashion magazine Vogue.

With the media glare focused almost constantly on these two champion horses, they have grown accustomed to the flash of cameras, and it's just as well.

To capture his final image of Frankel, Levine first shot the horse with multiple cameras before conducting a complete 3D body scan to produce a virtual wireframe of its body.

The scan allowed Levine to build a virtual model of Frankel, laying bare its physical prowess.

"I really felt that in itself was really interesting, just to see the horse in wireframe, to see that construction, the power and the physique, broken down into geometry," said the artist.

"It was quite an unusual thing to look at ... The beauty of the animal is in the entirety of his body. I wanted to shoot the horse naked in all his glory, but couldn't because of practical problems."

After making his first foray into equine photographer, Levine would prefer to revert back to human subjects for his next portraits.

And after picturing three of the world's most recognizable women, he's looking to shoot two of the planet's most famous men: David Bowie and Nelson Mandela.

"Bowie has been a huge influence on me artistically and he really strikes a chord with me," said Levine. "Nelson Mandela for being of greatness, both are icons."