King Charles
Photo Credit: WPA Pool / Getty Images

King Charles Unveils First Portrait Since Coronation

LONDON — On Tuesday, May 14, the UK’s King Charles unveiled the first official portrait of himself since his coronation last May, told The New York Times. The portrait, crafted by renowned artist Jonathan Yeo, features Charles set against a vibrant red background, adorned in the uniform of the Welsh Guards military unit. Notably, a butterfly hovers just above his shoulder.

Jonathan Yeo, a distinguished artist aged 53, expressed the symbolism behind the butterfly in the portrait. “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 explained. He continued, “My aim was also to make reference to the traditions of Royal portraiture but in a way that reflects a 21st Century Monarchy and, above all else, to communicate the subject’s deep humanity.”

The portrait was unveiled at Buckingham Palace and was originally commissioned in 2020. The commission was intended to celebrate the then Prince of Wales’s 50 years as a member of The Drapers’ Company, a historic grant-giving body, in 2022.

Yeo’s portfolio is diverse and prestigious, including portraits of eminent figures such as British broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough, Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman, and former Prime Minister Tony Blair. His skill in capturing the essence of his subjects is well-regarded, making him a fitting choice for this significant royal portrait.

The artwork, an oil on canvas piece, measures approximately 8-1/2 by 6-1/2 feet. According to Buckingham Palace, the portrait will be displayed at Drapers’ Hall in the City of London, the capital’s financial district, starting at the end of August.

King Charles’s choice of the Welsh Guards uniform in the portrait is a nod to his longstanding military connections and his role within the armed forces. The use of vivid red hues in the background adds a modern touch while maintaining the regal tradition of royal portraiture.

The butterfly, a subtle yet significant element in the painting, symbolizes transformation and evolution, mirroring Charles’s journey from Prince of Wales to King. This thoughtful inclusion reflects Yeo’s intent to blend traditional royal portraiture with contemporary elements, underscoring the evolving nature of the monarchy in the 21st century.

The unveiling of this portrait marks a significant moment in King Charles’s reign, capturing his essence and his evolving role in public life. As the portrait goes on display, it will not only celebrate his contributions to The Drapers’ Company but also offer the public a glimpse into the deep humanity and modernity that King Charles embodies.

This new portrait by Jonathan Yeo stands as a testament to the enduring traditions of royal portraiture while embracing the contemporary spirit of today’s monarchy.

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