Gaspar Antoine de Bois-Clair
ca. 1654–1704 | French
Double Portrait of King Frederik IV and Queen Louise of Mecklenburg-Güstrow of Denmark
Oil on wood strips, laid on panel
When viewed straight on, this "turning picture" by French artist Gaspar Antoine de Bois-Clair appears to be a disorganized collection of painted facial features and wooden slats. However, when viewed at an angle from either side, two separate images are revealed — portraits of Frederik IV and Louise of Mecklenburg-Güstrow, the King and Queen of Denmark. A wonder of both portraiture and trompe l'oeil, this work demonstrates the artist's skill in rendering intriguing visual effects.
An impressive exercise in representing depth and 3-dimensionality in painting, the work is executed on a series of triangularly-cut strips of wood to create an effect now known as lenticular imaging. Frederick IV is depicted in full armor with his ermine coronation robe and the signature blue sash and badge of the Elefantordenen, or the Order of the Elephant, the most esteemed chivalric order in Denmark. Queen Louise is also draped in royal crimson and ermine robes over silk and lace garments. The painting's appeal extends beyond mere curiosity, with Bois-Clair's skillful draftsmanship, attention to detail and luminous palette combining to create a work of beauty and polish. Overall, the piece reveals both the artist's talent as a portraitist and his devotion to the Royal court.
Although best known today as an artist, Gaspar Antoine de Bois-Clair described himself as "Pastor Pictor Poeta" or "Priest, Painter, Poet." Born to a Catholic family in Lyon, France, in his adulthood, he first became a Jesuit and later a Reformist priest. After relocating to Copenhagen in 1690, he converted to Lutheranism and was appointed French Chaplain to the Court of King Christian V, all the while working as both an author and portrait painter. Today, portraits by Bois-Clair belong to the collections of the Statens Museum for Kunst (Copenhagen), Rosenborg Castle (Copenhagen) and Frederiksborg Castle (Hillerød).
The present work is one of only three surviving lenticular double portraits by Bois-Clair. Of the remaining examples, one depicting Frederik IV as Prince and his sister Sophie Hedevig resides in Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen, and the other depicting King Christian V and Queen Charlotte of Denmark is in the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Kassel.
Panel: 15 5/8" high x 12 3/4" wide
Frame: 19 1/4" high x 16 3/8" wide
Belan Masia et al., "A survey on computer displays: Pushing the boundaries of optics, computation, and perception," Computers & Graphics, vol. 37 (2013), pp. 1012-1103, fig. 1.
Gustav Froehlich, Germany to Baltimore, 1868; thence by descent to his son
Irvin L. Froelich, Baltimore, until 1939
Charles F. and Edith G. Krastell, Baltimore, until 1991
Private Collection, USA, 1991-2020