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Portrait of HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark
, 2005

by Jiawei Shen

oil on canvas (frame: 232.8 cm x 155.9 cm, support: 214.0 cm x 138.0 cm)

Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark (b. 1972) married Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark in Copenhagen Cathedral on 14 May 2004. Born Mary Donaldson in Hobart, she gained a bachelor’s degree in commerce and law from the University of Tasmania in 1994. Completing further qualifications in advertising, she worked as an account manager in Melbourne, Edinburgh and Sydney before travelling overseas. Returning to Sydney in 1999, she worked in advertising and real estate. She met Prince Frederik, like her, an adroit sportsperson, when he visited Sydney for the 2000 Olympic Games. Moving to Denmark in 2002, she studied Danish history and language, and worked as a project consultant, before her marriage and the birth of her children, Christian, Isabella, Vincent and Josephine, who are second to fifth in line (in that order) of succession to the Danish throne. Sitting to Jiawei Shen in Sydney, Princess Mary adopted the insignia of the Knight of the Order of the Elephant (RE). The origins of the Order date to the fifteenth century or earlier, but there is a degree of debate about how an elephant with a tower on its back found its way into Danish chivalric iconography in the first place. On designated days it is worn on a chain, but it is usually attached to a sash, as here.

Jiawei Shen (b. 1948) has completed several commissioned works for the National Portrait Gallery. Shen often juxtaposes contradictory elements in his paintings to indicate his sitter’s history or situation. In this ‘court portrait’ he has placed the Princess alongside a column based on the architecture of Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen; through a wafting sheer curtain, beyond the dissolved tiles, lies the Sydney Opera House – designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Commissioned with funds provided by Mary Isabel Murphy 2005
Accession number: 2005.96