King No Beard 2007 is a direct appropriation of the portrait of King George III painted in London in 1773 by Nathaniel Dance, which is now held in the Hermitage collection in St Petersburg. Boyd’s regal portrait of King George III in all his frills and ﬁnery is brought undone by closer observation of the stately necklace: the expected gold orbs having been replaced by skulls. The portrait also contains a self-portrait, mockingly included as a decapitated specimen in a jar, gazing mournfully heavenward like a latter-day Saint Sebastian, martyred like so many of the ﬁrst Indigenous resistance ﬁghters of Australia.
Boyd’s portraits directly reference 18th-century portraits of ﬁgures associated with the earliest days of Australia’s colonisation. Within these portraits are other references, as is the case with the macabre self-portrait in which Boyd shares the fate of 18th-century Dharug/Dharuk resistance leader Pemulwuy (c. 1750–1802). Pemulwuy led uprisings against the colonisers for 12 years before ﬁnally being captured and executed – having escaped from captivity at least once. His severed head was then bottled and sent back to his home Country.
Boyd also alludes to the £50 million recently paid for British artist Damien Hirst’s work For the love of God, a diamond encrusted human skull, which was sold in June 2007. Boyd’s painting is a response to an art market gone absurd, particularly in light of the secondary and auction market for Aboriginal art.