A Painting by Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II Heads to Auction

The creative Queen has also served as the costume and production designer for a Netflix film and illustrated the Danish editions of J.R.R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings series

Abstract painting with yellow and blue swatches
The royal painting will be sold in March. Courtesy Bruun Rasmussen

Queen Margrethe II isn’t just Denmark’s longest-reigning monarch. The queen, who recently abdicated the throne to her son Frederik X, is also a prolific artist.

Her creative pursuits encompass everything from book illustration to set design, and her artwork has been shown widely across Denmark and internationally. But Queen Margrethe’s paintings are rarely sold publicly—until now.

Bruun Rasmussen, a Danish auction house acquired by Bonhams in 2022, will offer one of her acrylic works this March in an auction that is expected to fetch between 75,000 Danish Krone ($11,000) and 100,000 Danish Krone ($15,000).

“Her list of exhibitions is impressively long, but the works rarely come up for sale,” said Niels Boe-Hauggaard, specialist and head of modern art at Bruun Rasmussen, in a statement. “So, there are only a few paintings, such as this one, which one has the opportunity to acquire, because they come directly from people who have had a close relationship with the queen.”

Woman poses next to bright yellow painting hanging on blue gallery wall
Queen Margrethe at an exhibition of her art at the Arken Museum. SCANPIX DENMARK/AFP via Getty Images

The painting going up for auction was created in 1988, the same year that Margrethe began to officially exhibit her work. It was personally gifted to Hans Sølvhøj, her former Court Marshall, and has been owned by his family ever since.

Queen Margrethe II’s relationship to Denmark’s cultural scene

Margrethe, 83, reigned Denmark for 52 years. At the end of 2023, she revealed her plans to step down in a surprising New Year’s Eve announcement, citing health issues and a recent back surgery. The Queen officially signed her abdication earlier this month on Jan. 14.

With an approval rating of around 80 percent, Margrethe is beloved by Danes for her casual manner and artistic flair. She’s dabbled in painting, scenography, costume design, decoupage and even archeology, the latter of which she studied at the University of Cambridge. Her artistic talents were first revealed in 1970 when the queen designed Denmark’s annual Christmas seal—she has since gone on to design two more for the nation in 2003 and 2015, in addition to a 1983 seal for Greenland.

Woman in tweed jacket stands next to mannequin with costume
A show in Rome’s Palazzo Massimo exhibited Queen Margrethe’s decoupages and costumes for the movie “The Wild Swan.” AFP via Getty Images

A longtime fan of The Lord of the Rings, Margrethe in the late 1970s created illustrations for the Danish edition of J.R.R Tolkien’s series. They were originally sent as fan mail under the pseudonym “Ingahild Grathmer”—a partial anagram of the queen’s name—to the author, who was taken by their similarity to his own drawings.

Her art exhibitions, meanwhile, have taken place at institutions including Denmark’s Arken Museum, which in 2012 displayed more than 100 works in the largest-ever presentation of her art. Profits from the sales of her posters, lithographs and calendars typically benefit organizations like the Danish Cancer Society, the Danish Multiple Sclerosis Society and Greenlandic Children.

And as a set and costume designer, Margrethe has worked on short films such as the 2009 The Wild Swans and the 2000 The Snow Queen. She most recently served as a costume and production designer for Ehrengard: The Art of Seduction, a 2023 Netflix (NFLX) period piece based in the fictional kingdom of Babenhausen.

A Painting by Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II Heads to Auction