Portrait of King Charles III unveiled at Buckingham Palace

Wednesday, May 15, 2024
Portrait of King Charles III unveiled at Buckingham Palace

The first official portrait of HM King Charles III as monarch has been unveiled by Their Majesties The King and Queen in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Commissioned by The Drapers’ Company, it depicts him larger than life and wearing the uniform of the Welsh Guards, of which he was made Colonel in 1975. Jonathan had 4 sittings with the subject between June 2021 and November 2023 at Highgrove and later at Clarence House, working on it in between in his London studio.

In the portrait, The King's military regalia subtly fades into the background, exemplifying Jonathan's signature painting style where he places greater emphasis on capturing the character and essence of his subjects rather than replicating their literal appearance. 

“As a portrait artist, you get this unique opportunity to spend time with and get to know a subject, so I wanted to minimise the visual distractions and allow people to connect with the human being underneath" Jonathan Yeo

The vivid colour of the glazes in the background echo the uniform’s bright red tunic, not only resonating with the royal heritage found in many historical portraits but also injecting a dynamic, contemporary jolt into the genre with its uniformly powerful hue / providing a modern contrast to more traditional depictions. The butterfly approaching King Charles's shoulder in the portrait adds a layer of narrative depth, symbolising both his known advocacy for environmental causes and his personal transformation. The Monarch butterfly is believed to have been named after an English King (William of Orange) due to its distinctive colour and this migratory species is already one of the most affected by climate change because of alterations in spring temperatures. 

Jonathan Yeo explains: "Primarily a symbol of the beauty and precariousness of nature, it highlights the environmental causes the King has championed most of his life and certainly long before they became a mainstream conversation, but it also serves a compositional purpose, providing a visual contrast to the military steeliness of the uniform and sword. In the context of art history, a butterfly often the symbol of metamorphosis and rebirth, and thus also parallels the King’s transition from Prince to monarch during the period the portrait was created"

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