Barack Obama and wife Michelle attended an unveiling ceremony of their portraits to be hung in the National Portrait Gallery Monday, but some on social media are criticizing the former first lady’s image for what they believe is a case of mistaken identity.
The image, to be hung next to her husband’s in the Smithsonian Museum, is a black and white portrait by Amy Sherald, who won a competition to create the image. In the life-size image, Michelle is sitting in a floor-length dress with long, dark hair with a sultry stare.
When Michelle unveiled the image, she told the media she “was a little overwhelmed, to say the least,” saying she was taken aback by the beauty of it and was thinking of all the future generations who may be inspired by an African American presidential family.
Others, however, said the portrait had a seemingly little resemblance to the woman herself.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama
The National Portrait Gallery pic.twitter.com/TJl6ePdh6w
— Red T Raccoon (@RedTRaccoon) February 12, 2018
“Michelle Obama is an elegant lady and the portrait looks nice. But clearly, the artist drew someone else,” Dr. Eugene Gu, a columnist for The Hill, tweeted, according to Fox News.
Others on social media agreed that the artist had clearly envisioned someone else while creating the masterpiece, saying it “does not do a powerful woman justice,” and is a “confused attempt” at capturing Michelle Obama.
Michelle Obama portrait faces brutal mockery after unveilinghttps://t.co/OKe9koyDkl
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 12, 2018
Many other reactions to the artwork were largely positive, though, including the response from the former president himself.
Obama extended his thanks to Sherald, who beat out 2,500 other hopeful artists for the chance to work on the painting, “for so spectacularly capturing the grace and beauty and intelligence and charm and hotness of the woman I love.”
Michelle did not comment on her resemblance to the actual piece of art, but only mentioned her pride in being recognized in the museum.
“I’m also thinking about all the young people, particularly girls and girls of color, who in years ahead will come to this place and they will look up, and they will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the wall,” she said.
The artist herself spoke about her work, perhaps shedding some light on the potential abstract interpretation of the American political figurehead.
“I paint American people, and I tell American stories through the paintings I create,” Sherald said. “Once my paintings are complete, the model no longer lives in the painting as themselves. I see something bigger, more symbolic, an archetype.”