On history, royalty, politics, architecture, art and literature
Thursday, 19 January 2012
New books: The iconography of Margrethe II
Denmark is blessed with a monarch who is passionate about the arts, and portraiture is an art form which has had a revival during her reign, the art historian Thyge Christian Fønss points out in his interesting new book Portrætter af en dronning – Margrethe den [sic] II i portrætkunsten 1972-2012, published in October on the occasion of her jubilee, which was celebrated in the usual grand style last weekend. The author has chosen to include painted portraits, tapestries and busts, but only those for which the Queen has sat and/or which have been acquired by the monarch herself or by public institutions. He states his reasons for excluding photography, caricature and other art forms, but does not explained why miniature paintings are not included (the “family orders” worn by Queen Margrethe’s daughters-in-law are examples of the now rather rare technique of miniature painting). Some of the portraits show the Queen together with the Prince Consort, one shows her in a group and another is more a history painting than a portrait, but such distinctions are not made here. While some reigns are almost defined by the works of one artist – such as the reign of Henry VIII by Hans Holbein – or at least strongly identified with one artist – such as Christian IX with Laurits Tuxen or Carl XIV Johan with Fredric Westin – no artist has stood out as The Court Painter of Margrethe II. The individual with the greatest influence on the iconography of Margrethe II is probably the late photographer Rigmor Mydtskov. The twenty or so portraits of Queen Margrethe are thus rather diverse in style. However, there are some painters who have been commissioned to paint the Queen on several occasions, among them Preben Hornung and Niels Strøbek – the latter’s fourth portrait was unveiled at the Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Palace on the occasion of the jubilee. There are some famous international names among the artists – Pietro Annigoni and Andy Warhol stand out – but the majority are Danes, of various generations, most of them male. Following an introduction about the history of royal portraits, which may be enlightening to many, the author treats each portrait chronologically. There are large reproductions of the artworks and often also of details. Some are also shown in the milieu where they hang and earlier or alternative sketches for some of them are also included. Fønss analyses the composition of the portrait, the references it contains and frequently he also gives the readers the background history of each portrait and some glimpses of the process leading to the picture’s completion. The author has obviously benefited from the assistance offered him by the artists (or their heirs). Fønss has done a good job in identifying other artworks of relevance to the portraits he discusses and the historical references they contain. For instance he points out how the Queen’s pose in Thomas Kluge’s second portrait of her is obviously inspired by that of Christian II’s daughter Christina, Duchess of Milan, in Holbein’s portrait of her, painted when she was considered as a possible fourth wife for Henry VIII of England. Each portrait is thus given a thorough consideration in a chapter of its own, but the book might have benefited from the portraits being seen more in the context of each other. This might perhaps have been solved by including a summarising chapter towards the end, where the author could also have made some concluding remarks about the development of royal portraiture in Denmark through the last four decades. Nevertheless he makes the reader fully aware of the fact that the reign of Margrethe II has been a golden age for portraiture, particularly considering the low standing of this genre in Denmark forty years ago, and that the many portraits of the Queen have been hugely significant for the positive development in this regard. The author appears quite diplomatic in that he very rarely has anything remotely critical to say about any of the portraits, although it must be admitted that a few of them are not very good. But it seems to me that sometimes, between the lines, one may just sense that some of the portraits are more the author’s cup of tea than others. Given the absence of critical remarks about the portraits of Queen Margrethe it is altogether more notable that Fønss is generally dismissive of the portraits of other current monarchs. His rather negative view of Lucian Freud’s famous portrait of Elizabeth II comes as something of a surprise, while Håkon Gullvåg’s portraits of the King and Queen of Norway are written off with some remarks about their not being well-received by a tabloid newspaper, which is certainly a very un-nuanced version of the story. And should contemporary art necessarily be uncontroversial? I am also not sure I agree entirely with Fønss when he states that “English [sic] royal portraiture of the twentieth century has been extraordinarily retrospective and unoriginal”. One may in my opinion well argue that some of the portraits of Elizabeth II or the state portraits of King Harald V and Queen Sonja are more artistically daring than the portraits of Margrethe II, most of which could be described as rather conventional paintings which have not really moved artistic boundaries within the genre. The book, which is in large format, is beautifully produced, but unfortunately it has been very badly proof-read. As a result there are many grammatical errors, particularly when it comes to punctuation, capitalisation, words being split into two and the difference between “hans/hendes” and “sin”. The author generally writes “England” and “English” where “Britain” and “British” would have been correct, the name of Frederik VIII’s consort is mistakenly given as “Louisa” (she was born Princess Lovisa of Sweden and of Norway and became Queen Louise of Denmark, but she never used the name Louisa), Lucian Freud has become “Lucien Freud” etc. One also wonders why the author refers to King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland as a parvenu, given that he belonged to a dynasty which had been reigning for some 300 years at the time. The pearl tiara which Queen Margrethe wears in several portraits is erroneously said to have been a wedding present to “Louisa” in 1869, although primary sources show clearly that it was in the possession of her mother at the time of the latter’s death in 1871 (consequently, Louise must have inherited it after her mother’s death). While Mikael Melbye’s recent portrait of the Queen surrounded by the three silver lions from Rosenborg is the last to be included in the book, the iconography of Margrethe II keeps evolving. A portrait of her with her two heirs, by Niels Strøbek, who also painted the first portrait of her as Queen, was, as mentioned above, unveiled last week, while Thomas Kluge, the artist behind two of her more significant portraits, is currently working on a group portrait of the Queen and Prince Consort with their sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren, which will hang at Fredensborg Palace and mirror Laurits Tuxen’s famous painting of King Christian IX and Queen Louise with their descendants. I am told that the latter painting will be the subject of Fønss’s next book. For an art historian of the younger generation this is book is an impressive and convincing debut which makes one look forward to his future publications.
Trond Norén Isaksen is a Norwegian historian specialising in the history of monarchies, but also has a deep interest in politics and political history as well as the arts, particularly architecture.
I have a Master of Arts degree in modern history from the University of Oslo. I graduated in 2006 with the dissertation Halvt for Norge? - Bernadottene og det norske tronfølgespørsmålet, which dealt with the Swedish candidature to the Norwegian throne in connection with the dissolution of the union of crowns between Norway and Sweden.
I am the author of two biographies of members of the Norwegian royal family. The first was Dronningen vi ikke fikk,a biography of Crown Princess Märtha and King Olav V, which was published by Genesis forlag in 2003. The second, Kvinne blant konger, a biography of Norway’s former first lady Princess Astrid, was published by N. W. Damm & Søn (now Cappelen Damm) in 2007. My third book, on coronations and their roke in Norwegian history, Norges krone - Kroninger, signinger og maktkamper fra sagatid til nåtid was published in 2015.
I am also co-author of the book about the Norwegian Royal Collection, Arv og tradisjon, edited by Anniken Thue and published by Orfeus Publishing in 2012.
I am a regular contributor to the British monthly magazine Majesty and have written about 200 articles for various publications, including Politiken, Kunst og Kultur, Historie, Aftenposten, Historisk tidsskrift, Byminner, Dagens Nyheter, Morgenbladet, The Court Historian, Personhistorisk tidskrift, Prosa, Dagsavisen, Klassekampen, St. Hallvard, Royalty Digest Quarterly, Dagbladet, British Politics Review, Heraldisk Tidsskrift, [Danish] Historisk Tidsskrift, Personalhistorisk Tidsskrift, The European Royal History Journal, Adresseavisen, Royalty Digest, Museumsbulletinen, VG, Nordlys, Trondhjemske Samlinger, Året i bilder, Vårt Land,Värmlands museums årsbok, Kristeligt Dagbladand Fredriksstad Blad.
NORGES KRONE - KRONINGER, SIGNINGER OG MAKTKAMPER FRA SAGATID TIL NÅTID
My third book is about coronations and their role in Norwegian history from the twelfth to the twentieth century, published in 2015 by Forlaget Historie & Kultur. It may be bought from Adlibris by clicking on the picture (external link).
Kvinne blant konger - En biografi om prinsesse Astrid
My second book was a biography of Princess Astrid, published in 2007 by N. W. Damm & Søn. It may be bought from Adlibris by clicking on the picture (external link).
Dronningen vi ikke fikk - En biografi om kronprinsesse Märtha og kong Olav
My first book was a biography of Crown Princess Märtha and King Olav V, published in 2003 by Genesis forlag.
Complete list of my published works
154. “The Prince Who Would Be King: Henrik of Denmark and His Struggle for Recognition”, in Charles Beem and Miles Taylor (eds.), The Man Behind the Queen: Male Consorts in History (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
153. “Churchill's Six Sovereigns” (Majesty, Vol. 36, No. 1, January 2015).
152. “Uncrowned King of Bavaria” (Majesty, Vol. 35, No. 12, December 2014).
151. “Triumf og legitimitet - Rikssverdet fra Leipzig til Trondheim”, in Andreas R. S. Dugstad (ed.), Trondhjemske Samlinger 2014 (Trondheim, Trondhjems Historiske Forening, 2014).
150. “Kristine Bernadotte” (Dagens Nyheter, 14 November 2014).
149. Untitled review of Randi Buchwaldt's and Ted Rosvall's book Axel & Margaretha: A Royal Couple, in Thit Birk Petersen et al (eds.): Dansk-norske skæbner før og efter 1814 – Personalhistorisk Tidsskrift 2014 (n.p.: Samfundet for Dansk Genealogi og Personalhistorie 2014).
91. “Royal Reformer” (Majesty, Vol. 33, No. 2, February 2012).
90. “Book review: The Four Graces: Queen Victoria’s Hessian Granddaughters” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 - 2011). 89. “Book review: Young Prince Philip: His Turbulent Early Life by Philip Eade” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 - 2011). 88. “The Oldest of the Bernadottes - Elsa Cedergren (1893-1996)” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 - 2011). 87. “Exhibition review: Ruling Through the Arts” (The Court Historian, Volume 16, 2, December 2011). 86. “Renaissance Queen” (Majesty, Vol. 33, No. 1, January 2012). 85. “Katedralen” (Prosa, no 5 - 2011). 84. “Dronning Mauds ikke så mystiske død” (Dagbladet, 7 November 2011). 83. “Kongelig ettergivenhet” (Aftenposten, 1 November 2011). 82. Untitled review of the books En dynasti blir till - Medier, myter och makt kring Karl XIV Johan och familjen Bernadotte, edited by Niklas Ekedahl, and Familjen Bernadotte - Kungligheter och människor, edited by Ingvar von Malmborg (Historisk tidsskrift, no 3 - 2011). 81. “Da Danmark forandret seg” (Dagsavisen, 20 September 2011). 80. “Kongens og dronningens kroner - Opprinnelse og anvendelse”, in Arve Sletten (ed.): Trondhjemske Samlinger2010 (Trondheim: Trondhjems Historiske Forening 2011). 79. “Den siste habsburger - Nekrolog Otto von Habsburg 20. november 1912-4. juli 2011” (Morgenbladet, 15-22 July 2011). 78. “Young Ingrid - Queen Ingrid of Denmark’s Early Years in Sweden” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 2 - 2011). 77. Untitled review of Thomas Lyngby’s, Søren Mentz’s and Sebastian Olden-Jørgensen’s book Magt og pragt - Enevælde 1660-1848(Historisk tidsskrift, no 2 - 2011). 76. “Carl III Johan - Carl XIV Johan? - Striden om unionskongenes ordenstall” (Personhistorisk tidskrift, no 1 - 2011). 75. “Borgerskapets inntog” (Dagbladet, 29 April 2011). 74. “Minner om et kongehus - Oscar IIs dynastiske utsmykkingsprogram” (Byminner, no 2 - 2011). 73. “Palassrevolusjonen” (Dagsavisen, 21 January 2011). 72. “Kongens nye hovedstad: Carl Johan, Christiania og arkitektene i Norges demring” (St. Hallvard, no 3+4 - 2010). 71. “Book review: Jean Baptiste Bernadotte. Revolutionsgeneral, Marschall Napoleons, König von Schweden und Norwegen by Jörg-Peter Findeisen” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 - 2010). 70. “Prince of Peace – Prince Carl of Sweden and the Nobel prize” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 - 2010). 69. “Exhibition review: Bernadotte’s Norwegian palace” (The Court Historian, Volume 15, 2, December 2010). 68. “Adel ved Bernadottenes norske hoff” (Historie, no 4 - 2010). 67. “Ingen ny Diana” (VG, 12 December 2010). 66. “Historiens lærdommer” (Klassekampen, 2 December 2010). 65. “Det undersköna Oscarshall - Hoffliv på sommerslottet 1855” (Langt Vest i Aker, no 40, December 2010). [Stolen by that publication from Byminner no 3-2010 and republished without permission, a violation of copyright laws which the editors Øivind Rødevand and Nils Carl Aspenberg have refused to apologise for]. 64. “Et parti som alle andre” (Dagsavisen, 22 November 2010). 63. “Slottets forbindelser til svensk og russisk arkitektur” (Kunst og Kultur, no 3 - 2010). 62. “Oslos fjerde grunnlegger” (Aften, 20 October 2010). 61. “Carl Johan som Norges konge - Maktkampen mellom konge og storting” (Historie, no 3 - 2010). 60. “Hvorfor deles den [Nobels fredspris] ut i Norge?” (Dagsavisen, 8 October 2010). 59. “Book review: Drottning Victoria av Sverige – Om kärlek, plikt och politik by Stig Hadenius” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 3 – 2010). 58. “A Broken Engagement – Frederik of Denmark and Olga of Greece” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 3 – 2010). 57. “Prinsessens tittel” (Aftenposten, 24 September 2010). 56. “Prinsessetittelen” (Aftenposten, 21 September 2010). 55. Untitled review of Herman Lindqvist’s book Jean Bernadotte - Mannen vi valde (Historisk tidsskrift, no 3 - 2010). 54. Untitled review of Carl-Erik Grimstad’s book Dronning Mauds arv (Historisk tidsskrift, no 3 - 2010). 53. “Tausheten etterpå” (Klassekampen, 14-15 August 2010). 52. “Grevinne Ruth av Rosenborg” (Aftenposten, 29 July 2010). 51. “Det undersköna Oscarshall - Hoffliv på sommerslottet i 1855” (Byminner, no 3 - 2010). 50. “Book review: En brud för kung och fosterland - Kungliga svenska bröllop från Gustav Vasa till Carl XVI Gustaf by Lena Rangström” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 2 - 2010). 49. “Ida Wedel Jarlsberg - Hoffrøkenen som var Ylajali?” (Historie, no 2 - 2010). 48. “Victorias arv” (Aftenposten, 20 June 2010). 47. “Oscarshall fra lystslott til luftslott – Kongelig bolignød 1929” (St. Hallvard, no 4 - 2009). 46. “Fru Schøller - hvor ble hun av?” (Adresseavisen, 29 May 2010). 45. “Arkitekten som formet hovedstaden” (Aften, 11 May 2010). 44. “Opposisjonens siste skanse” (Dagbladet, 29 April 2010). 43. “Dronning Ingrid og det moderne monarki” (Politiken, 28 March 2010). 42. “The Principality of Pontecorvo - Bernadotte’s Stepping Stone to the Throne” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 1 - 2010). 41. “Kongelig grensesetting” (Dagsavisen, 11 March 2010). 40. “Oscarshall har vært kongebolig” (Aften, 29 December 2009). 39. “[Prinsesse] Grete Sturdza” (Aftenposten, 8 December 2009). 38. “Kongevåpenet og 1905 – en kommentar til Hans Cappelens artikkel” (Heraldisk Tidsskrift, Volume 10, Issue 99, March 2009). 37. “Counts of Monpezat – Old Name Makes New Titles for Danish Royals” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 – 2008). 36. “Almost Queen of Sweden and Norway – Countess Maria Krasinska and the Last Days of Carl XV” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 – 2007). 35. “Kongelige titler” (Dagbladet, 4 December 2007). 34. “A British Queen of Norway” (British Politics Review, Volume 2, No. 4, Autumn 2007). 33. “En hån mot Christian Fred[e]rik” (Dagbladet, 20 October 2007). 32. “Astrid og Hendrix” (Dagbladet, 29 August 2007). 31. Kvinne blant konger – En biografi om prinsesse Astrid (Oslo: N. W. Damm & Søn 2007). 30. “An Eccentric Couple – Prince August and Princess Teresia of Sweden and Norway” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 1 – 2007). 29. “Denmark’s Scottish Princess – Anne Bowes Lyon” (Royalty Digest Quarterly, no 4 – 2006). 28. “Kongen Norge ikke fikk – Prins Carl av Sverige og det svenske kandidaturet til den norske tronen i 1905”, in Sune Åkerman and Ruth Hemstad (eds.): Skilsmässan som förde oss samman,Värmlands Museums årsbok 2006 (Karlstad: Stiftelsen Värmlands Museum and Värmlands Museiförening 2006). 27. Halvt for Norge? – Bernadottene og det norske tronfølgespørsmålet, 1850-1905 (MA dissertation in history, the University of Oslo, autumn 2006). 26. “Kongen vi ikke fikk – Prins Carl av Sverige og det svenske kandidaturet til den norske tronen i 1905” (Historie, no 2 – 2005). 25. “Norges siste unionsdronning” (Aftenposten, 10 July 2005). 24. “Ingrid Alexandra”, in Morten Malmø (ed.): Året i bilder (Oslo: N. W. Damm & Søn AS 2005). 23. “Count Lennart Bernadotte af Wisborg (1909-2004)” (Royalty Digest, No. 164, February 2005, Volume XIV, No. 8). 22. “Memories of Nine Decades: An Interview with Count Carl Johan Bernadotte af Wisborg” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XLII, Volume 7.6, December 2004). 21. “The Last Vasa: Queen Carola of Saxony” (Royalty Digest, No. 163, January 2005, Volume XIV, No. 7). 20. “Ingeborg, Princess of Scandinavia”, part II (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XL, Volume 7.4, August 2004). 19. “Jeanne de Tramcourt – A French Colibri at the Swedish Court” (Royalty Digest, No. 160, October 2004, Volume XIV, No. 4). 18. “Ingeborg, Princess of Scandinavia”, part I (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXIV, Volume 7.3, June 2004). 17. “Norway has a New Heiress – The Birth of Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXVII, Volume 7.1, February 2004). 16. “The Unknown Sister: Princess Margaretha of Denmark” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXVI, December 20003). 15. “Mauds og Märthas dødsårsaker” (Dagbladet, 14 December 2003). 14. “Two Kings and Three Queens Bid Farewell to ‘Uncle Mulle’ – The Funeral of Prince Carl Bernadotte” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXIV, August 2003). 13. “Obituary: Prince Carl Bernadotte, 1911-2003” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXIV, August 2003). 12. “Konge uten dronning: Monarkiet under kong Olav manglet et viktig aspekt, det kvinnelige” (Dagbladet, 2 July 2003). 11. “The People’s King - The Centenary of King Olav V of Norway” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXXIII, April 2003). 10. “Kong Haakon og Hornsrud-episoden” (VG, 5 June 2003). 9. “Dronning Maud – tippoldemoren” (Historie, no 2 – 2003). 8. Dronningen vi ikke fikk – En biografi om kronprinsesse Märtha og kong Olav (Oslo: Genesis forlag 2003). 7. “Sibylla – Sweden’s Tragic Princess” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXX, November/December 2002). 6. “To dronninger” (Filologen, no 3 – 2002). 5. “Dronning av et århundre” (Historie, no 3 – 2002). 4. “His Excellency Count Flemming of Rosenborg (1922-2002)” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXVII, May/June 2002). 3. “Story of a Wedding – Princess Martha [sic] Louise of Norway and Ari Behn” (The European Royal History Journal, Issue XXVII, May/June 2002). [Published without my permission] 2. “Kong Gustaf Adolf var ikke nazisympatisør” (Dagbladet, 7 August 2002). 1. “Norges britiske dronning” (Filologen, no 1 – 2002).