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'Looks like he's in hell': King Charles' portrait sparks mixed reactions

Jonathan Yeo, the artist, said the king had seen the portrait in a “half-done state” and seemed “mildly surprised by the strong colour.”

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King Charles' first official portrait was unveiled at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday. As is expected for a portrait of the head of state, it's heavy on symbolism, depicting Charles with a stoic expression, his hands clasped over the handle of a sword and an endangered monarch butterfly over his shoulder.

But the painting's most immediately striking — and divisive — feature was the bold red tones of Charles' uniform and the background.

Painted by British artist Jonathan Yeo over four sittings, the portrait reflects his signature style "where he places greater emphasis on capturing the character and essence of his subjects rather than replicating their literal appearance," Yeo's website states.

Art historian Richard Morris praised the portrait, and the BBC described it as "vibrant." But the painting elicited a less positive reception from the public. Some compared it to the "Ghostbusters" villain Vigo the Carpathian. Others noted the overwhelming redness of the painting; one Instagram user commented that Charles "looks like he's in hell." Another wrote, "It looks like he's bathing in blood."

Yeo told the BBC that the king had previously seen the portrait in a "half-done state" and seemed "mildly surprised by the strong colour but otherwise he seemed to be smiling approvingly."

As royal portraits go, this one is, at the very least, not uninteresting. Yeo also joked to the BBC about how his work would be received: “If this was seen as treasonous, I could literally pay for it with my head, which would be an appropriate way for a portrait painter to die — to have their head removed!”