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    Former Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt

    Eccentric Portrait of Sweden's Ex-PM Draws Comparisons With 'Lord of the Rings'

    © AFP 2019 / Saul LOEB
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    A modernist portrait of Sweden's former head of government Carl Bildt has spurred strong reactions from ordinary users and fellow politicians alike.

    A portrait medallion of former Prime Minister Carl Bildt has been ceremonially unveiled in the Swedish parliament. While the 68-year-old himself has claimed he was "deeply honored," social media users found the avant-garde portrait somewhat grotesque.

    The ceremony involved Carl Bildt in the flesh, speaker of parliament Urban Ahlin, first vice president Ewa Thalén Finné, numerous MPs and high-ranking guests.

    "Of course, I am deeply honored with a medallion on a wall here in the parliament which is the focal point of our people's democracy, and in which I have acted in one way or another, including my time as prime minister, for almost half a century," a proud Carl Bildt said in a press release.

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    By his own admission, he was most honored by the fact that the medallion was placed next to that of former Center Party leader Thorbjörn Fälldin, Sweden's first Prime Minister to break the Social Democrats' hegemony of the mid-20th century.

    ​On social media, however, many Swedes found the modernist artwork repellent. Furthermore, several pointed out that Bildt looked like an ent, mystic creatures from J.R.R. Tolkien's saga "Lord of the Rings" which resemble talking trees. Social Democrat Anders Eriksson, however, didn't have any problem with that, calling the idea "fantastic."

    ​Another user ventured that the portrait resembled a cone.

    ​In yet another take, Bildt's portrait was likened to the BFG, Big Friendly Giant, the protagonist in the children's story with the same name by Roald Dahl.

    ​Carl Bildt himself reacted to the criticism rather lightly, venturing that the portrait hopefully won't scare away too many people from the parliament.

    ​Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, however, saw similarities with Norwegian trolls, to which Bildt tweeted that he didn't see anything wrong with that.

    ​French Ambassador to Sweden Veronika Wand-Danielsson saw similarities with famous actor Gerard Depardieu, but found Bildt "more handsome."

    ​According to the Swedish parliament, Carl Bildt himself chose sculptor Rune Rydelius among three candidates. The work began in 2016. The medallion was first modeled in clay after which a gypsum cast was made. Ultimately, the portrait was made in environmentally-friendly bronze.

    The Swedish parliament has a tradition of honoring former prime ministers through memorials placed in its headquarters. Those who have served the equivalent of one parliamentary term are portrayed with a relief or a medallion, whereas those who have served over a decade are immortalized with a bust.

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    Bildt served as Sweden's PM from 1991 to 1994 and Foreign Minister from 2006 to 2014. He also led the Conservative Party from 1986 and 1999. Internationally, he is remembered for his efforts as mediator during the Balkan wars as well as being one of the architects of the EU's policy in the East, particularly Ukraine. In 2015, Bildt was appointed to Ukraine's International Advisory Council on Reforms under President Petro Poroshenko.

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    modern art, Conservative Party (Sweden), Carl Bildt, Scandinavia, Sweden
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