Charles The Carpathian
May 15, 2024 7:20 AM   Subscribe

Buckingham Palace has revealed King Charles III's first official post-coronation portrait, and the work by artist Jonathan Yeo has proven to be...divisive in its design.

The portrait, awash in a red that melds with the subject's uniform, has raised a good deal of commentary/snark about the design, as well as the sort of media that it fits into or was taken from.
posted by NoxAeternum (99 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I find the way it makes his face float out in front of the sea of red quite odd. More like fan-art than royal portrait, in my opinion.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:22 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]

I thought the sea of red symbolized the massive amount of blood shed in the course of empire but, okay, there's a butterfly so it's all cool.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:26 AM on May 15 [72 favorites]

I can't find the link to it but someone mocked it up as a cover for Hellblazer. When I first saw it, I legit thought it was a parody of the actual portrait, but uh...
posted by Kitteh at 7:27 AM on May 15 [21 favorites]

I like everything about the portrait except the red color.
posted by May Kasahara at 7:27 AM on May 15 [9 favorites]

It is universally agreed upon amongst comics fans that it looks like a Hellblazer cover. There are mock ups even. Generally accepted that it would be an Ennis issue, though I would also accept Spurrier.
posted by Artw at 7:32 AM on May 15 [8 favorites]

There’s also been a Teressa May portrait that looks like a Shade the Changing Man cover.
posted by Artw at 7:33 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]

The Daily Mash, 'My new portrait reflects my desire to, as Slayer sang, Reign In Blood' says Charles.
His Royal Highness said: “I was no more than an impressionable young man of 38 when Slayer released this game-changing set, and it made a lifelong impression.

“From the moment I heard Raining Blood – ‘raining blood from a lacerated sky, bleeding its horror, creating my structure, now I shall reign in blood’ – I knew. That was me. That would be my model for my time on the throne.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:34 AM on May 15 [33 favorites]

looks cool to me, but I doubt I'd vote for him
posted by philip-random at 7:35 AM on May 15 [24 favorites]

looks cool to me, but I doubt I'd vote for him
posted by philip-random

You don't vote for kings!
posted by redyaky at 7:37 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]

Well obviously it was painted that way to appeal to Queen Carmilla. (Ahem, I'll just see myself out ...)
posted by cstross at 7:41 AM on May 15 [11 favorites]

Since I'm replaying Fallout 4, it reminds me of the paintings found in Pickman's gallery. You know, the ones painted in blood. Ugh.
posted by SunSnork at 7:42 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]

Did the artist subconsciously (or consciously) want to set Charles on fire?
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:43 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]

Rod Serling: ...and this work brings with it a cautionary tale of an ancient curse on a royal bloodline, entitled "The Man Who Would Be King," tonight's offering in the Night Gallery.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:44 AM on May 15 [16 favorites]

Butterfly: Psst… your red velvet cloak makes you look like a fancy tomato
posted by beesbees at 7:48 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]

You don't vote for kings!

well, not with that attitude you don't
posted by allegedly at 7:49 AM on May 15 [52 favorites]

Apparently we're at the at the mirror the image to find Baphomet phase of the discourse as well.

I did like what someone had to say about that:
Listen, dorks, the most evil part of any picture of the King of England is that the King of England is in it. It's pre-eviled! This is like playing Fuck Tha Police backwards to try and find hidden anti-police messages!
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:51 AM on May 15 [54 favorites]

It's interesting that everyone's describing this as red - it gives more an impression of pink than red, to me. I thought maybe it was just my monitor but now I see this in the Guardian review linked in the OP: "Charles’s red military uniform melds with a pinkish psychedelic splurge". It's a hot pink portrait of a king!

I wonder why he's portrayed in full military getup, sword and all. Was it his choice, or is it (and maybe the color) a comment by the artist on the violence of empire? Then again, Charles has reigned over the least in the way of empire of any British ruler in centuries, by far. The Guardian reviewer seems to think there's nothing deep here: "Yeo’s art is formulaic and this one follows the formula. He does a pedantic study of someone’s features then – daringly! – collides this staid depiction with a free burst of lurid abstract wallpaper. He did Cara Delevingne in a vague subaqua setting and Taron Egerton in purple and pink rain. To me this is an evasion of actual portraiture which is based on acute, hard observation."

Here's a link to his other portraits.
posted by trig at 7:54 AM on May 15 [10 favorites]

To be fair, it's not a bad portrait at all (and Chuck Rex does deserve some credit for making such a bold choice!), but...dear God it's just such inviting snark bait.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:58 AM on May 15 [9 favorites]

Thanks, I hate it. It looks like an illustration in an expensive industry journal. Reminds me of Lucian Freud's portrait of QE.
posted by theora55 at 8:03 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Poor Prince Charles. He and portrait aren’t BOTH supposed to age.
posted by UltraMorgnus at 8:07 AM on May 15 [11 favorites]

It's amazing!! Could this be a more overt critique of empire?? I fucking love it. The butterfly is the perfect, ironic cherry on top of the bloodbath.
posted by latkes at 8:08 AM on May 15 [8 favorites]

Those links from trig are good. It seems like this is the artist's usual style: he often does a realistic face against a bright wash of colour. It doesn't seem like he's trying to erase or diminish Charles III in particular.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:14 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]

Looks like what I'd expect to see if I hired this artist?
That much said, I do find it odd that the artist has a very similar portrait of an elderly man in military uniform with red background.

He looks a bit too... friendly? I'd agree it's a flattering portrait, overall.
posted by Glinn at 8:21 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]

You don't vote for kings!

Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.

But, frankly, it beats whatever the hell it is we have going on here.
posted by The Bellman at 8:27 AM on May 15 [18 favorites]

Meanwhile, in other portraiture related news:

Interestingly, the artist in that dispute has also painted a portrait of Charles in military getup, "in the central Australian desert, looking very uncomfortable indeed."
posted by trig at 8:29 AM on May 15 [11 favorites]

Overall, I like this portrait. I particularly like how the artist chose to include Charles's meaty sausage fingers.
posted by briank at 8:32 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]

There was a time when portraits (and copies) allowed people who had never seen a monarch in person to know what they look like but now we have TV and slightly photoshopped personal snapshots from the Princess of Wales for that, so it is good that royal portraits have gone down a more artistic path.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:38 AM on May 15 [6 favorites]

I like it but I guess I'm wrong [The Guardian].
posted by mazola at 8:56 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

I don't know what a Hellboy is, but I know great portraiture when I see it. Brava.
posted by Czjewel at 9:05 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]

Chuck Rex lol

I too immediately thought of the blood of Empire.
posted by supermedusa at 9:12 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]

"Charlie.... come rule for us.... rule for us forever, Charlie"
posted by clavdivs at 9:14 AM on May 15 [6 favorites]

I kind of like it.

posted by niicholas at 9:20 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]

There's no life behind the eyes. While that's certainly partially the subject's fault, the artist's schtick - while lucrative - tends towards a leaden flatness. Like Kincaid's "light", there should be vitality but capitalism - both in the form of actual commissions or in the form of social capital - has zombified the product.
posted by DeepSeaHaggis at 9:28 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

The SCP Foundation would like to apologize for this unfortunate containment breach. A mobile task force has been dispatched to contain the cursed object, and amnestics will be distributed as needed.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 9:28 AM on May 15 [19 favorites]

looks like Jeff Goldblum
posted by Billiken at 9:29 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

is this a Oblivious Anime Guy meme?
posted by scruss at 9:29 AM on May 15

For some reason what came to my mind was Ian McKellen as Richard III falling to a fiery death. Which I think adds to the impression that there's something tragic and doomed about this portrait. For all of Charles' pretensions of being a "modern" monarch, everything about his reign is coming off as backward-looking and ill-suited to the times.
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:36 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]

I'd like it as an art piece, but a bloodsoaked Charles as his Official Portrait is not a great look. Why didn't they do this in like, blue or green? Now everyone is thinking of devils, bloodsoaked empires, and tampons.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:36 AM on May 15 [5 favorites]

Not a huge Yeo fan but I feel like the dead eyes kind of work in this instance. That and the slight smirk, plus the butterfly are giving me disaster girl meme vibes. Perfect for the monarch of a blood-drenched colonialist empire.
posted by SinAesthetic at 9:41 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]

Makes me think of Neo in the pod right before he wakes up
posted by gottabefunky at 9:54 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Or--and I'm sure I'm not the first here--Han in carbonite
posted by gottabefunky at 9:55 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]

I like it but I guess I'm wrong [The Guardian].

Jonathan Jones has an over-the-top hatred of almost everything (tho he is often correct, tbf)
posted by Klipspringer at 9:59 AM on May 15

The monarchy is ridiculous, but the painting is pretty nice. If it were of someone more interesting I wouldn't be adverse to hanging it in my living space.

I feel like the author of Guardian piece is looking in the wrong place if they want art that reflects unspoken truth. This is an official portrait. It has nothing to do with reality.
posted by The Manwich Horror at 9:59 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]

I liked that the painting made no attempt to sugarcoat Charles' age. It's an odd official portrait, to be sure. I suppose somebody could try a neo-Elizabethan style, intricately-symbolic portrait?
posted by thomas j wise at 10:00 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

I love the portrait, but I hated the background, so I made a small adjustment to it, to make it more Melania Xmas in the White House-y.
posted by Omon Ra at 10:04 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]

I like it. It shows the demonic aspect of monarchy in general and the British empire in particular.
posted by signal at 10:04 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]

I like how unimposing it is. He's almost disappearing into the chaos of history. To the extent that you can see him at all, he looks very human and mortal, and the butterfly just makes him seem more harmless and fragile.

This is not how a dictator would want to be portrayed, fading into the background like this. Charles always seemed sort of hapless to me, living in the shadow of his long-ruling mother and even his glamorous dead ex-wife.

I kind of looked down on him for that, but this actually makes me like him a little better. If he approved this, I have to assume he's saying he never wanted to rule or be in the spotlight, and that the shadows are fine with him. I have a new appreciation for that now that we have so many would-be strongmen in world politics. Good for Charles for blending into the wallpaper and playing with butterflies, I guess. He could do a lot worse.
posted by OnceUponATime at 10:07 AM on May 15 [17 favorites]

head hands butterfly blood

I like it. My first impression of this portrait was the most human impression I've ever had of this human. I was not expecting to be impressed. Delicacy in the context of empire. A flap of some historical wing that determined he be a monarch and not a botanist or anything else. Heads and hands are assigned so much agency, but ah

I can despise the bloody empire and take a moment to feel sweet and mournful for a fragile boy determined by birth to be its avatar. What a headfuck that must be.
He chose this portrait more than he ever chose that life, and it surprised me a little.
posted by droomoord at 10:09 AM on May 15 [13 favorites]

I thought he'd been frozen in carbonite by Jabba the Hutt.
posted by Soliloquy at 10:17 AM on May 15

I like it.

And it's quite sensible. If you look closely, you'll see that the face is just a big sticker. At the next coronation, they'll peel off the face and -- voila! -- William's been waiting underneath all along.
posted by pracowity at 10:19 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]

Based on a very brief survey of his work, I find I like Yeo. His George Bush portrait made up of porno stills and the Cameron portrait with the bent poppy pin are both really good, imo. Surveying his work, I don't see a man who paints people pleasing pieces--he has a point of view and possibly even opinions. I think painting an unflattering Charles head floating over a sea of red and pink just barely obscuring a military uniform is not *not* political, which is something I can appreciate in an official portrait of a monarch in 2024.
posted by MagnificentVacuum at 10:21 AM on May 15 [4 favorites]

"i used to have a tv set that did that"

"maybe if they put a good guys hat on him"
posted by pyramid termite at 10:30 AM on May 15

My first reaction upon seeing it is definitely MORE BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD KING but I echo the sentiments of the majority of this thread in finding the portrait unerringly fascinating. There are so many choices to unpack here. The one that sticks with me is just how...low self-esteem?...this portrait seems. Like Charles insisted that he was not enough for his own portrait. Which could feasibly be in keeping with the arc of his life.
posted by greenland at 10:35 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]

Why didn't they do this in like, blue or green?

Green might've looked like the portrait of Barack Obama.

Now everyone is thinking of devils, bloodsoaked empires, and tampons.

Well, now I am.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:35 AM on May 15 [7 favorites]

METAFILTER: everyone is thinking of devils, bloodsoaked empires, and tampons
posted by philip-random at 10:39 AM on May 15 [15 favorites]

That butterfly is totally metal. Still, I wish the artist had turned up the Francis Bacon dial.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:43 AM on May 15 [3 favorites]

Finally, Ghostbusters II is the correct answer.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:07 AM on May 15 [13 favorites]

I think it's weird so few outlets are commenting on the butterfly by way of using the word MONARCH.

I love it. I think it was a cheeky choice by the artist, all that blood of the empire. It's unsettling, and should be, a portrait of a friggin' king! Of course, the whole IDEA and HISTORY of kings is unsettling!
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:12 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Yeo's 2014 portrait of Camilla [then scroll down]
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:20 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]

It is interesting--why red/pink? Purple seems like a much more obvious choice, although of course it wouldn't exactly match the uniform. What it reminds me of, really, is how, despite the expense and aspiration to grandeur of the coronation, a lot of the pictures ended up looking a bit sad. "Party City king costume" was the running joke. Several commentators pointed out that the "slimmed down" royal family that Charles has been pushing left the traditional balcony photo op feel thin and disconnected.

This portrait seems designed for getting attention--the bright pulsing color, the frankly enormous size of the canvas--but to the same effect of making Charles himself feel like a bit of an afterthought, literally fading into the background. Royal critics for a long time have described Charles as a man who wants power and adulation, who believes he deserves it; in this light, the benevolence in the face of the portrait could seem like an attempt to force the kind of public admiration his mother gained so easily. I am reminded that the coronation was originally supposed to include the British public proclaiming an oath of loyalty to the new king (with a 100M price tag).
posted by radiogreentea at 11:44 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

> Meanwhile, in other portraiture related news:

Was hoping someone who knows more about the Rinehart context than I do would make an FPP on that.
posted by paduasoy at 11:52 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Yeo's 2014 portrait of Camilla [then scroll down]

She's enveloped in a haze of gin & smoke which I take it is on brand for Camilla.
posted by chavenet at 12:01 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]

It reminds me of Obama's portrait
posted by weewooweewoo at 12:49 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]

> That butterfly is totally metal.

I didn't even notice the butterfly at first but that was my first thought, that the whole thing is way more metal than warranted for that dude.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:57 PM on May 15

My wife also saw Han Solo in carbonite, gottabefunky.
posted by doctornemo at 1:00 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

I like it, but I unironically have a Tretchikoff print hanging in my dining room.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:19 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

[To Portrait Artist:] "Depict me as a battle-wizened General, sword in hand, emerging from the fire and smoke of a battle in Hell itself."'

[To Chief of Staff] "Have my body-servant draw me a hot bath and fetch me a pumice-stone, I opened a door by myself this morning and may be developing a callus. And have my door-opener executed."
posted by Cookiebastard at 1:42 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]

Well obviously it was painted that way to appeal to Queen Carmilla

For cstross:

The grave of the Countess Mircalla was opened; and the General and my
father recognized each his perfidious and beautiful guest, in the face
now disclosed to view. The features, though a hundred and fifty years
had passed since her funeral, were tinted with the warmth of life. Her
eyes were open; no cadaverous smell exhaled from the coffin. The two
medical men, one officially present, the other on the part of the
promoter of the inquiry, attested the marvelous fact that there was a
faint but appreciable respiration, and a corresponding action of the
heart. The limbs were perfectly flexible, the flesh elastic; and the
leaden coffin floated with blood, in which to a depth of seven inches,
the body lay immersed.

posted by doctornemo at 1:45 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

I really like King Charles' face in the portrait. I look at that and it doesn't matter what the rest of it is, to me that's a great portrait.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:55 PM on May 15 [7 favorites]

Was just browsing his website, and his NSFW(!) porn collage of George Bush Jr. popped up. LINK.
posted by nikoniko at 2:23 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]

The mining billionaire Gina Rinehart has demanded the National Gallery of Australia remove her portrait from an exhibition by the award-winning artist Vincent Namatjira.

The line between artist and seaside caricaturist can be both fine and outright hilarious.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:46 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

IDK why y'all are complaining. "King engulfed in flames" seems like the perfect punctuation point for the end of a monarchy.
posted by pwnguin at 2:52 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]

I love it. It is odd and unexpected and beautiful and terrible.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 3:12 PM on May 15 [5 favorites]

It’s a painting with a message, and the message is: YOU PERFORMED THE CORONATION. I CAME. NO TEARS PLEASE; IT’S A WASTE OF GOOD SUFFERING.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:24 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]

Oh look you can even buy merch from the artist. Including wallpaper. Or a print of that Bush portrait.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:50 PM on May 15

It's giving me Viggo vibes for sure. Who are we gonna call now??
posted by ninazer0 at 4:21 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

I’ve worked with better, but not many.
posted by Servo5678 at 4:23 PM on May 15 [2 favorites]

I still need to think some more about reviewer Jonathan Jones's opinion of Yeo's portrait, but after following a link to his review of a retrospective on my man Frans Hals, I'm inclined to hate him for ever and ever, so there.
posted by rory at 4:32 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

If you hold a piece of coloured cellophane over it a secret image reveals his lizard form.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 6:33 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]

posted by Artw at 6:42 PM on May 15

if you stand back and cross your eyes you can see pink floyd and dolphins man
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 6:59 PM on May 15

i really like it, I think it's neat
posted by Sebmojo at 8:21 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]


Oh good, it's already in the title. Look, I have just one job and I'm going to do it. I'm going to make the joke and say the thing. Because honestly it's the first thing I though of in the first millisecond of seeing the thumbnail of the painting. I mean, come on.

Granted the field of blood is at least a bit more honest than most paintings of this aort stately ilk.

Does anyone know if the artist still alive? You used to get tossed in an oubliette for this kind of thing,
posted by loquacious at 8:45 PM on May 15 [4 favorites]

"These aren’t your ordinary canvases. You don’t find Monet in a mausoleum or van Gogh in a graveyard.”

-Rod Serling.
posted by clavdivs at 10:26 PM on May 15 [3 favorites]

The crossover between “people who are annoyed by modern art” and “people who are annoyed by the royal family” is hard to find, but this painting successfully manages it
posted by The River Ivel at 4:03 AM on May 16 [8 favorites]

One of those sleeves looks a bit photoshopped. Are we sure that's actually Charles we're seeing walk around in public?
posted by flabdablet at 5:30 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]

“You don’t find Monet in a mausoleum or van Gogh in a graveyard.”

I hate to dispute with Mr. Serling, but that is more or less where you will find them today.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:33 AM on May 16 [6 favorites]


Every time I look at this picture I laugh.

Is the English Royal Family finally owning up to being bloodthirsty demon lords or is it that Charles thinks maybe he can distract us with the bloodthirsty demon lord thing and we'll forget about, well, literally everything else about Charles.

The butterfly looks like a bachelorette party tattoo

I mean, I am not an art critic, but given Charles' most famous quote (to his mistress turned wife), it is a hell of a choice to surround yourself with so much visceral red.

Does Camilla have a bachelorette party butterfly tattoo?

Does Charles have a bachelorette party butterfly tattoo?

Show of Hands: how many people* globally have a positive association with a white English dude in a red coat?
*Also foxes

Every time I look at this picture I laugh.
posted by thivaia at 8:40 AM on May 16 [2 favorites]

It's a remarkable piece of work. I love it. The King should love it. If you choose to view it as menacing (and you can), then good on it. After all, every life the British government ends, and every life the British government saves, it does in the King's name, and you had better believe that while the King can't dictate what university fees are or what the target rate for sterling should be, the RAF and RN have never bombarded a country the King or Queen wanted not to be bombarded.
posted by MattD at 9:10 AM on May 16

So like, what does Charles think the red background is? Global warming?
posted by pwnguin at 9:16 AM on May 16

Red's fine
The butterfly is cool
I mean, it's good
But the unicorn just above
His other shoulder is boffo.
Go King Charlie!
Give it your best shot!
posted by mule98J at 11:21 AM on May 16

I just showed this to a friend and she literally leapt back and said, "That's AWFUL!!!" Another friend eas all, "I can't unsee that!"
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:44 PM on May 16

In an interview with Marie Claire, Yeo explains why there was so much red.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:26 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]

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