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Did an artist put Monica's dress in the National Portrait Gallery's Bill Clinton painting?

The Clintons attend the unveiling of their portraits, at the National Portrait Gallery in 2006.
The Clintons attend the unveiling of their portraits, at the National Portrait Gallery in 2006.
Michel Du Cille/The Washington Post/Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

The painting of former President Bill Clinton in Washington DC's National Portrait Gallery contains a visual reference to Monica Lewinsky's blue dress, artist Nelson Shanks disclosed in a new interview with Stephanie Farr of the Philadelphia Daily News.

Shanks said that painting Clinton was a challenge because he thinks Clinton is "probably the most famous liar of all time." Shanks acknowledged that "he and his administration did some very good things," but said, "I could never get the Monica thing completely out of my mind and it is subtly incorporated in the painting." He went on:

"If you look at the left-hand side of it there's a mantle in the Oval Office and I put a shadow coming into the painting and it does two things. It actually literally represents a shadow from a blue dress that I had on a mannequin, that I had there while I was painting it, but not when he was there. It is also a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him."

Indeed you can see the incongruous shadow, which distinctly seems to have the arm of a dress, in the painting here:

Clinton Portrait

(Painting by Nelson Shanks. Image via Philadelphia Daily News)

Shanks also told Parr that "the Clintons hate the portrait" and "want it removed" from the Gallery (which is part of the Smithsonian Institution), though the Gallery denied that to Parr. Clinton's team hasn't yet commented on the matter. Read more from the Philadelphia Daily News here.

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