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King Charles III's bright red official portrait raises eyebrows

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London — Britain's King Charles III has unveiled the first official portrait completed of him since his coronation, and it's getting mixed reviews.

The painting by British artist Jonathan Yeo shows the king appearing to emerge from a red, fiery background. A butterfly appears as though it's about to land on his right shoulder. 

Yeo, who's done portraits of other high-profile people including former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, was commissioned for his latest royal work in 2020 to celebrate the then-Prince of Wales' 50 years as a member of the Drapers' Company. 

Portrait of Britain's King Charles by artist Jonathan Yeo unveiled in London
Britain's King Charles III meets artist Jonathan Yeo next to a portrait by Yeo of the king, at Buckingham Palace in London, May 14, 2024. Aaron Chown/Pool via REUTERS

The painting was designed with the architecture of Drapers' Hall in mind. The portrait will hang in the great hall in London that is the home of the historic livery company, which dates back to the 14th century.

Charles is portrayed wearing the uniform of the Welsh Guards, of which he is the Regimental Colonel.   

"Much like the butterfly I've painted hovering over his shoulder, this portrait has evolved as the subject's role in our public life has transformed. I do my best to capture the life experiences etched into any individual sitter's face," Yeo said of his work. "In this case, my aim was also to make reference to the traditions of royal portraiture, but in a way that reflects a 21st century monarchy and, above all else, to communicate the subject's deep humanity. I'm unimaginably grateful for the opportunity to capture such an extraordinary and unique person, especially at the historic moment of becoming king."

Yeo told CBS News' partner network BBC News that Charles saw the painting in a "half-done state" and "was initially mildly surprised by the strong color, but otherwise he seemed to be smiling approvingly."

Queen Camilla is reported to have seen the portrait for the first time and remarked: "Yes, you've got him."

Portrait of Britain's King Charles by artist Jonathan Yeo unveiled in London
Britain's King Charles unveils his portrait, by artist Jonathan Yeo (3rd from left), at Buckingham Palace in London, May 14, 2024. Aaron Chown/Pool via REUTERS

Yeo told the BBC that the late Queen Elizabeth II even dropped in on King Charles' final sitting for the painting and said her son's likeness had been captured well.

Many reviews from outside the royal family, however, which have proliferated on social media since it was unveiled, have been less generous. 

While one fan suggested in the comments below the post on the royal family's official Instagram page that the portrait reflected Charles rising above "enduring battles akin to murky waters" with "clarity and grace," many others seemed to struggle to get past the striking red hues.

One user said, "it looks like he's bathing in blood," while another said: "Without sounding rude, this is the worst royal portrait I've ever seen."

A third user suggested a different color might have worked better.

"I would have loved this if it was any other color than red," the user said. "He really captured the essence of him in the face, but the harshness of the red doesn't match the softness of his expression."

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