Picture This: Huger-than-life kings, dictators, and leaders

Portrait of a leader, bigger than life, and -- maybe -- awe-inspiring?

Jack Rodolico By Jack Rodolico

What do the Dalai Lama, U.S. President Barack Obama and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have in common?  They are, in a sense, icons. It’s easy to find portraits of them, often very large ones. Images of national leaders are hung for varying reasons. Dictators, in particular, seem to have a real fondness for seeing very-rosy likenesses of them hovering over public places.

A fatherly gaze, or a frown of disdain

A huge portrait can symbolize a leader’s watchful, fatherly gaze over his flock, or it can reinforce an individual’s forceful rule over the land. Opponents can also turn pictures into targets, morphing them into images of mockery and disdain. In this week’s photo gallery, you’ll find a little bit of everything – mundane, profane and insane.

Dancers perform under the portraits of North Korea founder Kim Il-sung (L) and the late leader Kim Jong-il during a gala show in Pyongyang, April 16. The performances are part of the celebration on the centenary of the birth of Kim Il-sung. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)

A portrait of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in Lagos, March 9, 2011. We cannot report if people began urinating here before or after the photo was hung. (Reuters/Joseph Penney)

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin joins a circle of snowmen in Moscow ahead of recent elections on February 26. The portrait reads, "Obey!" Thousands of Russians joined hands to form a ring around Moscow city center in a protest against Putin. (Reuters/Ivan Gushchin)

Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hold cartoon portraits of him during a rally to commemorate Labour Day in Caracas, May 1, 2011. (Reuters/Jorge Silva)

It's tough to find a flat surface in Thailand without a portrait of the king. Catholic nuns hold booklets with pictures of King Bhumibol Adulyadej as they sing outside the Royal Palace in Bangkok to mark his birthday, December 4, 2011. The king is 84. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama holds a portrait painted by children during a function held in honor of him in New Delhi, December 3, 2011. (Reuters/Parivartan Sharma)

Even after death, "Chairman Mao" Zedong is larger than life above Tiananmen Square (where his body still lies in state). A police officer manages to balance on a Segway, March 13. (Reuters/David Gray)

The fallen and falling. This banner depicts (R-L), former Egyptian President Mubarak, his son Gamal, Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Libya's former leader Muammar Gaddafi and Syria's president Bashar al-Assad in prison uniforms in Tahrir Square, Cairo, July 15, 2011. (Reuters/Asmaa Waguih)

Ornamental carpets depicting portraits of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (top R), Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Lady Diana and veteran Turkish politician Deniz Baykal (top L) hang on the wall of a shop in the border city of Kilis, southeastern Turkey, January 13. (Reuters/Umit Bektas)

Somehow the Secret Service scandal in Cartagena eclipsed this news: Colombian police stop a fan of President Barack Obama who attempted to reach his hotel to present him with a portrait, April 13. Notice the tear - on Obama, not the artist - and Jesus in the corner. (Reuters/Jose Miguel Gomez)