The official portrait of former secretary Henry Kissinger was unveiled last night at the State Department to everybody's satisfaction although, as Kissinger observed, they "painted out the scepter" at the last minute.

Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, on his way to the airport to catch a plane for Geneva, said we all owe a tremendous debt to Kissinger, and that great projects now - peace in the Middle East, SALT, diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China - are built on a foundation Kissinger laid in past years. ancy Kissinger, who kept her raised towards the chandeliers during the brief speeches, unveiled the picture.

Amateurs of painting delivered the usual Washington views that the picture was the most pedestrian ever seen, the nose was too large, etc., with the specific proviso they could not be quoted.

The painter, J. Anthony Wills of Houston, did the work for somewhat over $10,000, a department source said. An earlier portrait by another artist had been found unacceptable some months ago.

The noted painter, Gardner Cox of Boston, had painted the earlier portrait that, according to people in the State Department did not capture the Kissinger "radiance" and "dynamism" and "made him look somewhat a dwarf." The present portrait shows the secretary looking impressive and large, a dark suit with red tie and a rather decided green background.

Kissinger said he felt honored to be invited, an obvious lapse into his standard gracious remarks when he is a guest somewhere. It would have been odd not to invite him, as several observed.

Elliott Richardson wore a tie sprinkled with silver whales and said his work on the Law of the Sea is as complex and taxing as anything he ever did. Daniel Boorstin and Joseph Alsop both wore red vests and bow ties.

Arthur Burns, smoking his pipe in the elevator, heard a fellow say that in England they smoke in elevators except at the American Embassy in London.

"There is some corner of a foreign field," he said, "that is forever Cailfano" (the anti-smoking HEW secretary). Burns snorted softly.

Richard Helms, Robert Mcnamara, and a number of other Kissinger friends offered congratulations, and Clement Conger vanished briefly, causing somebody to say he was probably twisting somebody's arm to give a priceless table for the government's growing treasuring of fine antique furniture.

"As a matter of fact, today Mrs. Mitchell Taradash of New York gave a $50,000 18th-century tea table, made in New York in Chippendale style, to the White House Map Room."

Kissinger said he felt the artist captured him well, "swelled head and all," and felt it was a fine honor to be thus memorialized in the State Department, "at least until Mount Rushmore."

Champagne, ginger ale, stuffed eggs and small cakes were served in the Benjamin Franklin Room after which everybody went outside to join in the snarled traffic.