King Charles' First Post-Coronation Portrait Sparks Debate

King Charles' new portrait sparks debate and diverse opinions

by Zain ul Abedin
SHARE
King Charles' First Post-Coronation Portrait Sparks Debate
© WPA Pool/Getty Images

Buckingham Palace unveiled the first official portrait of King Charles III since his coronation, and its striking red brushstrokes are stirring mixed reactions. The 8.5 by 6.5-foot painting is by renowned British artist Jonathan Yeo, known for his portraits of notable figures like former Prime Minister Tony Blair, actress Nicole Kidman, and activist Malala Yousafzai.

Yeo began this portrait while Charles was still Prince of Wales, depicting him in the Welsh Guards uniform, sword in hand, against a bold red backdrop. A butterfly appears poised to land on his shoulder, symbolizing transformation.

“Much like the butterfly hovering over his shoulder, this portrait evolved as the subject’s role in our public life transformed,” Yeo explained in a Buckingham Palace statement. “I aimed to blend royal portraiture traditions with a modern touch, reflecting a 21st-century monarchy and capturing the subject’s deep humanity”.

Yeo had four sittings with the King, supplemented by drawings and photographs. The portrait was commissioned to mark the 50th anniversary of Charles’ membership in The Drapers’ Company, which supports educational initiatives and other philanthropic efforts.

The painting will be exhibited to the public from May 16 to June 14 at the Philip Mould Gallery in London and will later hang at Drapers’ Hall alongside other royal portraits.

Mixed Reactions Online

The King and Queen are reportedly pleased with the portrait.

Yeo mentioned that Queen Camilla remarked, “Yes, you’ve got him,” while King Charles, despite being “mildly surprised by the strong color,” seemed to approve with a smile. Social media reactions, however, were varied.

On the royal family’s Instagram account, one user commented that the uniform and color resembled “the visual representation of the massacre caused by colonizers,” while another appreciated the facial likeness but felt the red was too harsh.

An art historian on X praised the portrait for capturing the subject’s true appearance, flaws, and all. Jonathan Yeo is primarily known for his oil paintings but has also created collages. He famously created a satirical portrait of former US President George W.

Bush using cutouts from pornographic magazines. This piece was a commentary on the perceived moral superiority of the extreme right in American politics. Regarding the King’s portrait, Yeo explained that the vibrant colors resonate with royal heritage while adding a contemporary twist.

The butterfly symbolizes beauty, nature, and the King’s environmental passion. Yeo’s works are part of London’s National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection. King Charles, an artist himself, had his watercolor collection showcased in London in 2022. He described painting as a relaxing and therapeutic exercise that refreshes the soul.

King Charles
SHARE