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Jan Gossaert (Jean Gossart), A Young Princess (Dorothea of Denmark?)

Key facts
Full title A Young Princess (Dorothea of Denmark?)
Artist Jan Gossaert (Jean Gossart)
Artist dates active 1508; died 1532
Date made about 1530-2
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 38.2 × 29.1 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1908
Inventory number NG2211
Location On loan: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, Chimei Museum, Tainan City, Taiwan
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Young Princess (Dorothea of Denmark?)
Jan Gossaert (Jean Gossart)

A young girl, her clothes sewn with hundreds of pearls, gazes out at us. She seems to be playing with a golden object made of concentric rings. This is an armillary sphere, a celestial globe showing the movement of heavenly bodies. Its interlocking circles are echoed in the decoration of her clothes.

She holds the sphere upside down, which is not an accident: it may be a clue to her identity. The girl is probably Dorothea, daughter of Christian II, deposed King of Denmark, and she could be making a political point. She indicates a point approximately 55° north of the equator on the sphere’s outer ring. The latitude of Copenhagen is 56° north; she may be directing our attention to her father’s lost kingdom. Her sphere – and the world – might be upside down because of the political turmoil which drove her family out of Scandinavia.

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