Published January 11, 2013
The first official portrait of Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, went on display in London Friday and, um, we're not too sure what to make of it.
Kate, for the record, loves it. She called the painting by artist Paul Emsley "brilliant, amazing," according to ITV News, while husband Prince William deemed it "absolutely beautiful." (But then, they have to say that.)
It shows her against a dark background, dressed in a navy blouse with her hair loose, gazing at the viewer with a small smile on her lips.
And – there's no polite way to say this – with wrinkles under her eyes.
The duchess told Emsley that she wanted the portrait to show "her natural self rather than her official self," he informed reporters at today's unveiling.
Her "natural self," to judge by this portrait, is really rather serious. And kind of worn-out.
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"There's something rather dour about the face," art critic Waldemar Januszczak told the BBC, while the Guardian's Charlotte Higgins said it made Middleton look like "something unpleasant from the Twilight franchise," with her "dead eyes," "mean" lips and "washed-out cheeks."
It's enough to make you feel sorry for Emsley, an award-winning portraitist who has painted Nelson Mandela and other worthies.
He acknowledged the pressure he was under when faced with recreating one of the world's most photographed faces, Reuters reported: "It's probably the most important portrait I'll ever do," he said, "and when you realise that, you do start to think rather carefully about what you're doing perhaps more than you usually do, and that made me more cautious than I normally am."
His picture of Kate is now on display in the National Portrait Gallery in central London – though if it should ever makes its way into the royal residence, as one commenter on the BBC website suggested, "maybe they can hang it behind a large vase."
Here's Emsley talking about what it was like to paint Kate, courtesy of the Guardian: