The first official portrait of King Charles III was revealed at Buckingham Palace has been met with criticism by the public. 

The first official portrait of King Charles III since his coronation was revealed at Buckingham Palace last Tuesday, May 14, and while largely considered a modern masterpiece by His Majesty, it has been met with criticism by the public. 

Painted by Jonathan Yeo, the large portrait portrays the King standing in the traditional Welsh Guards uniform (perhaps an ode to his former title as Prince of Wales), hands on the hilt of his sword, a half-smile on his face with a butterfly hovering over his right shoulder. 

Unlike the portraits of his predecessors, however, the painting is bathed with crimson. 

This was definitely not the predicted staid symbolism of state, office, pomp, and lineage, but spoke to something much deeper. 

While the butterfly represented Charles’ metamorphosis from prince to sovereign, including his passion for certain types of environmental legislation, to many it looked like he was bathing in blood. 

“I think I can understand that he’s trying to show something modern, but I think that for the younger generation it just doesn’t appeal to us at all,” says Sofia Ortiz-Anglero, senior.

The portrait received criticism a few days after being released to the public. From comparisons to the devil to the idea of colonial bloodshed, even to the mention of the Tampax scandal which was the focus of the tabloids during his tumultuous marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales. 

Despite the public perception, the obvious goal of this commission was to create a modern portrait, reflecting a more modern monarch. This time without the pageantry that the royal family is most known for. 

While the red colors are the most striking part of the portrait, the choice of shade seems particularly fraught given the firestorm that the king has endured since his ascension to the throne. It is also a deeply emotional color and can communicate faith, sensuality, or power, having been used by a modicum of famous artists such as Raphael, Warhol, and even Matisse. 

The final work is a reflection not of the false commentary made by the public, but of a period in the King’s life in which he lost his mother, assumed the throne, and faced a presumably serious health diagnosis. There may be only so much honesty one can expect from an image of a leader, but the image appears to show Charles not standing out, but receding into his portrait. 

“There is symbolism behind it, I’ll give him that. Only time can tell though how people choose to see it,” says Noah Anderson, senior.

It’s a fitting representation of a man who, despite his withdrawal from public life, retains his aristocratic silhouette. The additional image of the butterfly by his side emphasizes the fragility of the world we live in, as well as themes of renewal and regeneration. 

This portrays an overall message of a monarch with a bit of showiness and nothingness at the same time and doesn’t reveal a shock of horror, but a King of England with very little of himself to show. He offers a first glimpse into how he understands his role in the years of his reign to come. 


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