Danish Royal Family Portrait: Cute or Creepy?
This isn’t your ancestor’s royal family painting! Queen Margrethe II of Denmark commissioned the first royal family painting in almost 125 years, and chose Danish artist Thomas Kluge to paint it.
Four years later, she got it: a very modern, and some say quite creepy, portrait of the Danish Royal Family. Kluge, a largely self-taught artist, is famous for using the same painting technique as the old Flemish Masters like Caravaggio. Though he uses modern acrylic paints, Kluge applies layers upon painstaking layers of under painting using glazes and extremely thin brushes.
He is a master in chiaroscuro – the artistic technique of using contrasting effects of light and dark.
Fredensborgbillege depicts King Christian IX and Queen Louise, and their extended royal family, the so-called “the in-laws of Europe” in their time. Via Danish Royal Collections1 The Queen had wanted something more like the Fredensborgbillege above, a painting of King Christian IX and his royal family in the 1880s by Laurits Tuxen, but she got what some people had described as a poster2 for the sequel of the horror movie The Omen instead. John Brownlee of FastCo, described the painting3:
We begin with Queen Margrethe II, a matriarch who has been painted by Kluge with all of the graceful femininity of Tubbs from the BBC’s League of Gentlemen4. Next to her sits her swollen husband, Henrik, who has been captured with such close attention to detail that you can actually see the meat sweats diffusing through his skin-tight velvet suit. Note also the tumor or possible herpes sore disfiguring Henrik’s upper lip, which Kluge has made sure to render with nearly Rembrandt-like fidelity.
In the lower left-hand corner, Princess Isabelle rocks back and forth on the floor, staring with milk-white eyes into the distance as she purses her black lips and slowly twists her dolly’s head off. To the right, young princes Nikolai and Felix build the metaphorical tower of blood that they must eventually climb to take the Danish throne for their own. But they will not ascend to claim their crimson thrones unchallenged.
To get there, they must first defeat Prince Christian, the second heir to the throne, whom Kluge depicts as the 1,000-year-old Satanic dwarf in the center of the painting. But the prince will not easily be killed: he has splintered his soul between seven horcruxes, each of which has been hidden as a sort of Easter egg within Kluge’s masterpiece. Can you find them all?
We don’t know what the Queen privately thinks about the piece, but the website for the Royal Danish Collections described it circumspectly5 as “a kind of magic realism.” The portrait, in which Kluge balanced the official and private spheres of the Danish Royal Family, is a “precise depiction of humans and objects known from reality which form part of a universe which challenges the interpretations of the spectator, as they encompass something other and deeper than immediate, accurate likeness.”
In other words, creepy, but what do YOU think?