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King Charles III’s new portrait reveals a vulnerability absent from those of the late Queen

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Published Time: 14.05.2024 - 18:40:15 Modified Time: 14.05.2024 - 18:40:15

Jonathan Yeo’s portrait of King Charles III, unveiled today at Buckingham Palace, reveals an apprehensive mien despite the jaunty palette His Majesty King Charles III by Jonathan Yeo 2024/His Majesty King Charles III by Jonathan Yeo 2024 In 1955, the Fishmongers’ Company unveiled a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II dressed in a sumptuous navy mantle, towering above an icy landscape

Jonathan Yeo’s portrait of King Charles III, unveiled today at Buckingham Palace, reveals an apprehensive mien despite the jaunty palette

: His Majesty King Charles III by Jonathan Yeo 2024/His Majesty King Charles III by Jonathan Yeo 2024

In 1955, the Fishmongers’ Company unveiled a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II dressed in a sumptuous navy mantle, towering above an icy landscape. There had been earlier formal portraits of the new queen – such as a saccharine likeness executed in 1952 by the American-born Douglas Granville Chandor, now in the Government Art Collection, likely the first following the accession. In a forgettable effort by Margaret Lindsay Williams from 1953, the queen, grinning and approachable, displays as much majesty as a jaunty, gossipy Land Girl.

But the Fishmongers’ full-length, painted by the Italian Pietro Annigoni, is, for all its potentially off-putting remoteness, routinely – and rightly – cited as one of the great royal portraits of the 20th century.

Almost 70 years later, another City of London livery company, the Drapers’, presents its own portrait of a recently crowned British monarch, King Charles III, and the contrast couldn’t be greater. The icy tones and glittering sangfroid of Annigoni’s picture have disappeared; instead, Jonathan Yeo summons a pulsating carnival of pink and red, in which the King’s hands appear peculiarly swarthy. Indeed, Yeo’s portrait feels, in comparison, almost tropical – an effect enhanced by the presence of a monarch butterfly about to alight on an epaulette. Is this 7.5ft x 5.5ft painting somehow intended to appeal to the King’s Commonwealth subjects? It reminds me of recent artworks “decolonising” images of royalty by, say, Yinka Shonibare and Hew Locke.

: His Majesty King Charles III by Jonathan Yeo 2024/His Majesty King Charles III by Jonathan Yeo 2024

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