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News / Nation & World

King Charles’ new portrait has some viewers seeing red

Public comments on social media lambaste fiery tones in painting

By Eva Hartman, Los Angeles Times
Published: May 16, 2024, 5:53pm

If the British royal family was looking for a public relations win after Princess Catherine’s Photoshop fails, the unveiling of King Charles’ newest royal portrait was not it.

“I’m sorry, but this portrait looks like he’s in hell,” one person posted in comments under artist Jonathan Yeo’s and the royal family’s joint Instagram post revealing and explaining the image.

“Without sounding rude this is the worst royal portrait I’ve ever seen,” another added.

“It looks like he’s bathing in blood,” a third concluded.

The painting, which stands at an impressive 6½ by 8½ feet, was commissioned three years ago by the Worshipful Company of Drapers, a medieval guild of wool and cloth merchants that now focuses on philanthropy. The piece will hang at the gallery in Drapers’ Hall in downtown London, Yeo wrote.

King Charles sat for four sessions with the artist, a trustee at the National Portrait Gallery who has painted Queen Camilla when she was duchess of Cornwall as well as Charles’ father, the late Prince Philip, albeit in much more flattering tones. Charles had a creative say in the project, suggesting the artist include the butterfly landing on his shoulder, doing double duty as a symbol of his commitment to the environment and to show his transformation as he ascended to the throne.

“When I started this project, His Majesty The King was still His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, and much like the butterfly I’ve painted hovering over his shoulder, this portrait has evolved as the subject’s role in our public life has transformed,” Yeo wrote.

“I do my best to capture the life experiences and humanity etched into any individual sitter’s face, and I hope that is what I have achieved in this portrait. To try and capture that for His Majesty The King, who occupies such a unique role, was both a tremendous professional challenge, and one which I thoroughly enjoyed and am immensely grateful for.”

Royal reaction

Despite his involvement in the project, King Charles was “initially surprised by the strong color,” the artist told the BBC, and TikTok royals commentator @mattaoffact noted that the king appeared to jump a bit when he pulled the cloth away to reveal the painting.

The online opinions didn’t stop at hellfire, however. Allusions to the royal family’s bloody colonial past, Charles and Camilla’s infamous tampon scandal and the family’s current woes, including the king’s recent cancer diagnosis, ran rampant.

But not everyone seemed bothered. Queen Camilla took one look at the painting, the BBC reported, and said, “Yes, you’ve got him.”