The first official portrait of Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge, popularly known by her former name Kate Middleton, was unveiled in London on Friday, and opinion was sharply divided over an image many deemed unflattering.
The 31-year-old, who as a glamorous future queen is one of the world’s most photographed women, is portrayed in the large canvas with a faint smile, long, copper-tinted hair and shadow under her eyes.
Award-winning artist Paul Emsley, surrounded by a scrum of international news crews at the National Portrait Gallery where the work was revealed, described the duchess as a “wonderful subject” and “generous as a person”.
“The brief was that it should be a portrait which in some way expressed her natural self rather than her official self,” he said.
“When you meet her, that really is appropriate. She really is that kind of a person. She’s so nice to be with and it’s genuine and I felt if the painting can convey something of that then it will have succeeded.”
National Portrait Gallery staff said the duchess and her husband Prince William visited earlier on Friday and were “very pleased” with the outcome of a painting based on photographs taken at two sittings in May and June last year.
“Her family are also very pleased,” Emsley said. “To me that’s the ultimate test in a way, because they know her better than anyone else.”
Public reaction was less positive, however, with views on Twitter and newspaper websites overwhelmingly negative.
Many comments focused on how the image had aged the duchess, herself a graduate in art history, while others took the artist to task for portraying her smiling slightly.