Tuesday 5 December 2006

Queen Margrethe & a tale of two artists

Queen Margrethe has been in London to unveil a portrait of herself commissioned to mark her tenth year as Colonel-in-Chief of The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (PWRR).

According to a press release from the Royal Danish Embassy in London the 10th anniversary of her Colonelcy of the Regiment was marked by commissioning a portrait. After seeking advice from the National Portrait Gallery, and with the Queen's approval, the artist Victoria Russell was selected to paint the portrait. The unveiling was at the Cavalry and Guards Club in London.

Two sittings were completed in Denmark. Queen Margrethe unveiled the painting at the Cavalry and Guards Club in London on 24 November 2006.

The PWRR is one of only two regiments in the British Army which has a foreign monarch as its Colonel-in-Chief. The Queen of Denmark continues a tradition in her family dating back to the appointment of her great-grandfather, King Frederik VIII, as Colonel-in-Chief of one of the ancestor regiments of the PWRR in 1906.

There is controversy involved in another story concerning Queen Margrethe and a tapestry altar decoration at Roskilde Cathedral, the burial place of Danish kings and queens (including her parents). Politiken reveals Queen Margrethe and Queen Ingrid made a communion table covering and other pieces for the altar and have insisted on its use in violation of the wishes of the weaver who was commissioned to do the work by The Danish Arts Foundation.

Politiken and other media is presenting this story in a rather sensationalist way -- certainly the Queen has privileges because of her position, but in this instance it is hardly the case that the Queen is being exessively overbearing. The royal tapestry has been used on two royal occasions, when it could be argued it had significance for the ceremonies in question (Queen Ingrid's funeral and Empress Dagmar's re-interment) and on 14 other occasions. At all other times the commissioned work is in place. So, the story as it is being portrayed....

After completing her work in 1977 , the artist/craftswoman Anna Thommesen was called to a meeting with Queen Margrethe who discussed with her that Dowager Queen Ingrid and Queen Margrethe had created their own antipodeum and carpet. They wished to make an agreement to alternate betweeen the two works.
Anna Thommesen categorically refused the proposal at the time and always maintained that position. After some convoluted negotiaions the Thommesen work stayed and the the royal work was presented to the church as a gift to be used as the church deemed fit. It was used at the burial of Queen Ingrid and again at the reburial of Empress Dagmar. This latest use has upset the dead artist's husband Erik Thommesen, and he has sued the Roskilde Cathedral for the violation of his late wife's artistic rights.

DR.dk has reported (25th November) on the feud between the artist and the Queen.
The commissioned tapestry has been covered by Queen Margrethe's tapestries on several occasions. The last time was at the reburial of Empress Dagmar in Roskilde Cathedral last September.
A lawyer acting for the husband of the artist is now demanding that Statens Kunstfond (state administration of arts affairs) take on the matter.
However there are no real possibilities for sanctions against the Queen, who has so far been unresponsive to all requests to respect the work of the commissioned artist, Anna Thommesen.
The disagreement began when the Queen’s embroidered red and blue tapestry covered the work of a highly regarded and renowned artist. Anna Thommesen's work has been highly praised since it was installed in the cathedral. It is considered a major piece of church art and was commissioned in 1977 as a large adornment for Roskilde Cathedral.
The decorative pieces include an altar tablecloth, an altar carpet and the row of cushions for kneeling at the altar.
The sculptor and husband of the late artist, Erik Thommesen, has now asked in Politiken why Statens Kunstfond is not challenging the Queen's insistence on using the work made by Queen Ingrid and herself.
The chairman of Statens Kunstfond Jesper Christensen is in agreement with Erik Thommesen's demands on behalf of his late wife, who was adamant before her death that her commissioned work deserved its proper place in the cathedral. According to Politiken there is an instrument of foundation in which it is recorded that Anna Thommesen's work must not be covered or replaced.
"Because it is public property you can’t really change it to what suits you. For example, you cannot emphasise your own work by covering someone else’s, and you cannot suddenly put up a wall or a soft drink dispensing machine, which we have actually experienced,” explains Jesper Christensen.
“Now we’ll have to be alert again, but apart from that we can’t do anything, we have no possibility to sanction the Queen. But what is happening in Roskilde Cathedral is surely lacking respect for the original artist”.
Roskilde Cathedral has used the Queen’s antependium at two funerals and in total for a period of 14 days.
The church's parochial council thinks it is fine to use the Queen's embroideries and the parishioners agree that it is appropriate that the Danish royal family's adornment is shown, not least because they appreciate that the Queen and Queen Ingrid have worked on it. (Thanks Muhler!)

The Danish Arts Foundation
Roskilde Cathedral - UNESCO World Heritage site
Roskilde Cathedral newsletter shows a photo of Queen Margrethe's and Queen Ingrid's work
Roskilde Domkirkes Antependium af Dronning Ingrid og Dronning Margrethe
Anna Thommesen (biography in Danish)

First photo is of the cathedral with Anna Tommesen's work in place as it is the majority of the time. The middle photos are the royal decorations. The last photo Kim Agersten/POLFOTO shows beginning of Empress Dagmar's re-interment at Roskilde Cathdedral with Queen Margrethe's and Queen Ingrid's antependium visible on the altar table behind the sarcophagus.

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