Vigilius Eriksen (1722-82), The Dowager Queen Juliane Marie of Denmark, 1776
Juliane Marie was the second wife of King Frederic 5. After her husband’s death she saw her position at the Danish court becoming marginalised by count Struensee, whose position as physician-in-ordinary to the mad King Christian 7. made him the de facto ruler of Denmark during the first few years of the 1770s.
She became one of the driving forces behind a coup against Struensee in 1772, the same year that Vigilius Eriksen from the Russian court received the commission for this portrait of her.
A picture within the picture
Up until 1771 Eriksen was a court painter in St. Petersburg, and one of the portraits dating from this period gives us the key to his rendition of Juliane Marie. In both works, the artist painted a picture within the picture:
In the Russian portrait a mirror image acts as a commentary on the frontal rendition of the Russian queen, whereas Juliane Marie is shown here pointing to a dark bust of her late husband, providing an effective contrast to her own figure, dressed all in white.
Juliane Marie's position of power
The ties between the queen and the bust concern the basis for Juliane Marie’s revived position of power after the recent coup. The dowager queen towers majestically, accentuated by the worm’s eye view, and this majesty is justified by her recent past as the king’s wife.