Artist Jonathan Yeo, who is best known for his painted portraits of Tony Blair and a pregnant Sienna Miller, has chosen Damien Hirst as his latest subject.

In an intentionally obscure portrait Hirst, who is renowned for his work with dangerous materials including thousands of gallons of formaldehyde for his pickled shark and other animals, is presented face -on wearing an armour-like chemical protection suit. It’s not entirely clear whether he is making something or whether he is being pickled in one of his own tanks.

Hirst is reportedly delighted with the powerful pose which recalls old master paintings of popes and princes and was intended to “reflect ironically his supposed status as dark overlord of the Contemporary Art scene.” Yeo has said, “Essentially it is a portrait by an artist of another artist known for doing completely different work. Damien is probably best known for his avant-garde sculptures and I for my portraits. People assume we have completely contrary positions – of tradition and modernity, painting and physical – however, artists are always interested in other artists, and how and what they achieve in their work. Damien, and his undeniable ongoing impact on the art world, is endlessly fascinating.”

The six-foot-tall painting will be the centrepiece of Yeo’s exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, in September.