Monday, 29 October 2012

New Q in Skyfall

Whilst in London over the weekend I managed to get to see the new super-duper block-busting Bond film Skyfall.

One of the highlights is the new Q (played by Ben Whishaw), who turns out to be a geeky young whippersnapper with a neat line in witty one-liners.  

Here he is in his first meeting with Bond.


The plot is all about establishing 50th anniversary Bond as a very British Jubilympic icon, so here they are appropriately against a backdrop of quintessentially British paintings in Room 34 of the National Gallery in London (NOT the National Portrait Gallery, film fans - that's round the corner).

And in case you're interested, or want to amaze your friends with your art historical knowledge in a Bond-themed pub quiz, the painting on the left is Joseph Wright of Derby's 1768 Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (all about cutting-edge innovations in science - an appropriate as a backdrop for Q)

....and the one on the right behind Bond is Thomas Gainsborough's The Morning Walk of 1785, showing a little lap-dog looking adoringly at its mother-figure mistress (Bond and M?).

The painting that Bond and Q are contemplating as a metaphor for Bond himself is Turner's The "Fighting Temeraire" Tugged to Her Last Berth to be Broken Up of 1839.

Whilst there are clear parallels between the imagery of the redundant old warship heading for an ignominious end, here's a further twist.  

In the early 1800s, Turner lived at 119 Cheyne Walk in London.
In 1923-26, Ian Fleming, the creator of Bond, also lived there. 

(He later lived at Flat 24, Carlyle Mansions, Cheyne Walk from 1950-54, where he wrote Casino Royale.)

To read more about the scene in Room 34 in the National Gallery, go to my other blog here.

To read more about the other paintings in Skyfall and how they inform the plot, go here for the painting in Mallory's office and here for the stolen Modigliani in Shanghai.

But the thing I really liked about new Q, apart from his penchant for choosing top art locations for his spy assignations,  is his Scrabble letter Earl Grey tea mug.

You mostly only see it from the back (especially in one particular close-up where he takes a drink out of it), and it looks like this...

Yup, I recognised it because it's like my studio mug (which is why mine has paint on it), only mine says 

and his says....(obviously)
 Well, it made me laugh!

(Now, if you're wanting to read anything into Q's mug - and Skyfall seems to be a film where there are multiple layers of meaning hiding away where you least expect it - then I would draw your attention to the fact that there is only one 'Q' in the letter distribution of Scrabble (Q being the equal-highest scoring letter), but two 'M's'.  As there turns out to be in Skyfall by the end....)  


  1. Coincidental Pentax Q10 marketing ((((((((:

  2. Ach, more shameless product placement!!!

  3. Turner's painting is a great metaphor for Bond's uncertainty. If you noticed at the end when Mallory becomes M and Bond is receiving his assignment, there is a painting of four or five warships going to out sea, it's as if Bond has proved himself to be fit and the uncertainty is gone. Do you know who did that painting? It seems the same style as Turner.

    1. Oh, well done! No, I hadn't noticed that, even watching it twice.

      I'll have a look and see if I can find any stills of that and see if I can identify it....

  4. Can't find a still of the scene in new M's office in MI6, or anything about the painting. Perhaps it's top secret...

    If you can find a picture of the scene, I'll identify the painting!! Either that, or I'll have to go and watch Skyfall for a third time...

    1. Here I have a still for you, it is pretty large

    2. Oh, Anonymous - I salute you!!

      I'm on to it...

  5. Ok, here's your answer...