Surrounded by silverware and magnificent silks, the dowager queen Sophie Amalie (1628-1685) breathes her last. A grotesque figure whose status and wealth cannot deliver her from a violent and painful death by asphyxiation.
Leonora Christine's memoirs
The painting belongs to the group of around 100 pictures, studies, and sculptures that Zahrtmann created on the basis of Leonora Christine’s (1621-1698) memoirs Jammersminde (Memory of Woe) from 1869. Her life and destiny, spanning the range from wealth and power through imprisonment and shame to rehabilitation and release, fascinated Zahrtmann for almost 50 years.
Sophie Amalie was behind Leonora Christine’s arrest and 22 years of imprisonment in Blåtårn. Zahrtmann hated her for that, and his sentiments are apperent with exceptional honesty in this depiction of her death throes.
Renewer of historical painting
As an artist, the splendour-loving Zahrtmann became the great renewer of historical painting. In addition to his personal interpretations of Leonora Christine’s life, he was particularly interested in scenes of classical mythology.
Over the years the colours became more intense and the interpretations more private, making them more bizarre in the eyes of his contemporaries. In his late figure compositions, he brought together "exceptional" human beings and obvious homoerotic fascinations in a high-tension exchange between life and work.