Aberdeen’s Lord Provost has gone to ground as we reveal what appears to be the controversial portrait he had painted in Russia.
The P&J can unveil what is understood to be the finished article – including the flag of the Russian navy.
Lord Provost Barney Crockett faced criticism earlier this year as we revealed the £8,000 work had been given to a Russian artist.
And last night he remained tight-lipped on the portrait when invited to comment by The Press And Journal.
Why is Lord Provost Barney Crockett’s portrait controversial?
Commissioned before the invasion of Ukraine, it shows a kilted Crockett in his ceremonial chains, next to Marischal College.
But there are also two saltires in the backdrop – one is the Scottish flag, the other the ensign of the Russian Navy.
The Scottish Government recently was forced to change the branding behind the first minister’s Covid briefings when similarities to the same flag were highlighted.
The city’s vaults host hundreds of years worth of oil paintings of former lord provosts.
And Aberdeen Labour’s Mr Crockett is next in line to be inducted.
When first approached late last week, the lord provost repeatedly told The P&J he would not comment as the details of portrait’s background were described to him over the phone.
The councillor of 15 years said he would wait until an official unveiling to comment on any portrait.
But yesterday, the portrait was verified by a Town House source.
News of Russian portrait commission came as war broke out in Ukraine
As the controversy first emerged, Mr Crockett hinted that the portrait had been used to bolster relationships with Russia.
The country holds a lot of weight in discussions on global energy security.
In March, the lord provost said he had been eager to “encourage relationships” between Aberdeen and foreign countries.
This, he added, included the since widely-condemned state.
However, that was before Russia massacred thousands of innocent civilians in an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Millions more have fled their homes.
And due to that “dreadful situation,” Mr Crockett said the work is “very much in the deep freeze long term”.
Barney Crockett vows public money will not be used to pay for his portrait
The future of the artwork, produced by George Dmitriev, remains unclear due to the aggression in Eastern Europe.
In March, the Dyce, Bucksburn and Danestone candidate suggested the city would not pay a penny towards it.
He also told this newspaper he would personally cover the cost.
Seascape artist Dmitriev sat with Mr Crockett for two hours while the city’s civic head visited Moscow for an energy conference last year.
Despite this, “there is nothing committed by the council,” the lord provost told us.
How much has Barney Crockett’s portrait cost?
A budget of £10,000 was set aside for the traditional portrait of the lord provost, to be paid from the city’s common good fund.
After the initial £8,000 commission, the remainder was to be used to fly Mr Dmitriev across to Scotland for the final studies.
The Russian artist was hired on the recommendation of the Moscow Caledonian Club.
Mr Crockett said the budget set aside meant he had been forced to shop abroad as “the price of portraits had rocketed”.
Opposition councillors have previously called for photography to replace the expensive tradition.
But, the lord provost has defended the practice, claiming it boosts heritage and potential tourism.
Last night, the city council did not offer comment on the portrait.