Hidden detail in King Charles’ portrait gives worrying hint about Royal Family’s future – expert

By Staff

The first official portrait of King Charles to be finished since his Coronation has been unveiled – and within the striking painting is a very subtle detail that many may have been missed at first glance

A brand new official portrait of King Charles has finally been unveiled – and it’s certainly set tongues wagging.

The portrait, by British artist Jonathan Yeo, shows the monarch in the uniform of the Welsh Guards which inspired the colour red that has been painted over much of the portrait. The artist said he felt like this work of art should have more of a “dynamic and contemporary feel”. Amid the unusual painting, one small detail shows a tiny blue butterfly hovering over the King’s shoulder in the striking portrait, which was added in by artist Yeo at Charles’ suggestion.

During a conversation with the King, Yeo said they discussed how it would be “nice to have a narrative element which referenced his passion for nature and environment” and he spoke of how Charles “changed jobs halfway through the process” and the butterfly is a “symbol of metamorphosis” so it “tells multiple stories”.

After Yeo’s speech, the King joked “it’s nice to know I was a chrysalis when you first met me,” which was met with laughter. However, one art expert has said the choice of the type of butterfly featured in the painting could be very telling.

Speaking to MailOnline, Professor Geraldine Johnson, Head of the History of Art Department at Oxford University, said: “It [the butterfly] undoubtedly reflects his lifelong passion for the natural world. One does wonder, however, whether it was the King or Yeo who made the decision to depict a Monarch Butterfly in particular.

“While its name suggests royalty, its endangered status may unintentionally say as much about the King’s concerns about the future of the monarchy as about the natural world.”

The official unveiling of the portrait took place yesterday in The Blue Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace, with the King being unexpectedly joined by the Queen, her daughter, Laura Lopes and her husband, Harry, both of whom work in art. It was flanked by equally towering, and more traditional paintings, of King George V and Queen Mary on the walls.

As Charles pulled the giant red bow holding up a black covering, he laughed and said: “Christ!”, but quickly qualified with “I wondered what the frame was going to be like. It is remarkable, actually, how it has turned out.”

The sovereign had seen the painting when it was two-thirds finished, according to the artist. Mr Yeo said: “Someone asked if I get nervous about unveilings and the answer is not normally but then the subject doesn’t normally become King halfway through the process. It’s a joy and honour to be here. I want to thank…above all the subject for trusting me with it and giving me so much of his time. People often say ‘is there a secret to doing a good portrait?’ and…that’s having an interesting subject to start with.”

The painting was commissioned in 2020 to celebrate the then Prince of Wales’s 50 years as a member of The Drapers’ Company. The King sat for the painter four times, for around an hour on each occasion, with Yeo also working from drawings and photography in between. By the time it was finally finished at the end of last year, Charles was King.

The portrait will go on public display for a month at the Philip Mould Gallery in London, from May 16 until June 14 and entry is free. The artwork is expected to be displayed at Drapers’ Hall from the end of August.

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