A Young Princess (Dorothea of Denmark?)

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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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.

The National Gallery, London



A Young Princess (Dorothea of Denmark?)


about 1530


Oil on oak


H 38.2 x W 29.1 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1908

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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