Visitors to the gallery of US presidents in the Colorado state Capitol could be excused if they did a double take this week.
There, displayed near paintings of George W. Bush and Barack Obama and in a space set aside for President Donald Trump, was a portrait of a very different president:
According to the group that funds the portraits, the mug of the Russian leader was placed in Trump's would-be spot by an unknown prankster Thursday morning. It was discovered during a tour.
This might not have happened but for one problem: The state hasn't raised the $10,000 needed for a Trump portrait, leaving an empty spot on the third-floor rotunda in Denver.
Colorado Citizens for Culture, an arts-advocacy group that collects donations for the paintings, said that before the Putin prank it had raised exactly $0 for Trump's portrait. Since news of the stunt spread, two donors had chipped in a total of $45 by midday Saturday.
Colorado State Sen. Steve Fenberg, a Democrat, tweeted a photo of the Putin painting, writing, "As seen in the Colorado State Capitol Hall of Presidential Portraits today...#putinpotus."
Trump has taken heat from critics for his cozy relationship with Putin, especially after a recent meeting in Helsinki during which he appeared to side with the Russian president over the US intelligence community about Russian interference in the 2016 US election. Trump later backtracked, saying he had misspoken.
Fenberg said he sees the Putin portrait stunt as a funny prank. But, he added, "It's a commentary on the political atmosphere we're living in and I think it probably means something."
The Putin likeness was quickly removed by Capitol staff, Fenberg said.