Royal portraits are consistent on one measure alone. They are rarely flattering to the royal they portray and are deeply divisive. Click here to get a bigger version.
And so it is with artist Thomas Kluge's portrait of the Danish royal family which has been variously described as creepy, Gothic, shadowy and a horror film poster.
Kluge's portrait of the Danish royal family reminds me of The Addams Family, tweeted one objector. Awful and grim said another.
Prince Christian, second in line to the Danish throne is tensely posed in the centre of the new group portrait, which features three generation of royals in everyday clothing.
Queen Margrethe II and Henrik, the Prince Consort, are seated on a rococo settee behind their grandson.
Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary hold their twin son and daughter, Prince Vincent and Princess Josephine.
Prince Joachim and Princess Marie are on the right side of the couch, with their daughter Princess Athena. Their son, Prince Henrik, crawls behind his older cousin.
The Danish Royal Collection interprets the painting as both a story of modern family and a piece of royal history.
"The present and future monarchs, H.M. the Queen, T.R.H. the Crown Prince and Prince Christian, all make eye contact with us, while their family members are portrayed in their own universe, unprovoked by the gaze of the spectator," says the caretakers for the Danish royals' memorabilia.
"The children are at play with the exception of the upright and severe Prince Christian who seems aware of his future responsibilities."
Similar controversy erupted over Paul Emsley's soft focus oil painting of Kate Middleton in 2012. The first official portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge*, was criticised for making her face harder than her years.
The challenge for commissioned artists is balancing their own interpretation with public demands for romanticised realism. Kluge's art is often referred to as "a kind of magic realism".
Princess Mary and Prince Frederik might console themselves that Kluge's grand portrait has grander pretensions than of James Brennan's satirical portrait for the Bald Archies of the couple, with Prince Christian on the potty, Frederik posed in jocks, and a breast feeding Princess Mary.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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