A new portrait of the Danish royal family has been unveiled, and critics are saying something is rotten in Denmark. The painting, which depicts the group in a shadowy hall against a classical backdrop, is currently being displayed in Copenhagen's Amalienborg Museum. It took Danish artist Thomas Kluge four years to complete, though it may haunt him through the afterlife.
The Danish Royal Family (credit: Thomas Kluge/Danish Royal Family Collection)
The work is being described by some as more Addams Family than royal family. Only three of the subjects make eye contact with viewers — Queen Margrethe II, her son and heir apparent, Crown Prince Frederik, and his child Prince Christian. The little boy, lit eerily from behind, is standing alone, front and center, while the other children play. He carries the weight of his duties — or is that the thoughts of his sinister deeds? — on his shoulders. To his left, his evil-twin-like cousins build a blood-red tower, and to his right, slouched in an inky black corner, sits his little sister, Princess Isabella, blueish-lipped and hunched over a rag doll. She resembles none other than a 5-year-old Heather O'Rourke cowering in the flickering light of a TV screen, seconds before her first run-in with a poltergeist.
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The painting will "steal your soul," writes Fast Company which also claims it looks "Satanic" and "creepy" and describes the royal brood as "Damien-like progeny." The Daily Mail says it resembles a poster for a scary movie, and the gathering does have the feel of a Season 1 American Horror Story reunion. On Twitter, reactions to the work have been mainly along the lines of:
Kluge, the artist, is already a controversial figure in Denmark. Largely self-taught, he's a classicist in a country where there has been an artistic backlash against realism. While he uses modern acrylics and works from photographs, he layers his paints and glazes using the painstaking techniques of Flemish old masters such as Rembrandt. He's also a favorite of the Danish royals and previously produced a photorealistic portrait of the queen in casual clothing, of which he commented, "I wanted to examine if a Queen stays a Queen if you wipe everything off."
Painting royal portraits may gain an artist fame for posterity, but it also invites ridicule. When Kate Middleton's official portrait was unveiled in January, it was widely derided by the public. Because people are bombarded with photographic images of royals, many may not have a tolerance for a picture that doesn't look exactly as it would appear in a glossy magazine. They are also fiercely attached to "their" queen, king, prince, or princess.
After its stint in the museum, Kluge's royal portrait will be permanently displayed in Fredensborg Palace, one of the residences of the Danish royal family. Let's hope they aren't prone to nightmares.
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