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The Danish king who was heavily tattooed – and how his ink was recreated

Meticulous work involving study of archive films and photos has enabled graphic artists in Denmark to build a 3D digital reproduction of a bare-torso, tattooed King Frederik IX.

The Danish king who was heavily tattooed – and how his ink was recreated
A 1947 portrait of King Frederik IX next to the animation showing his tattoos. Photo: (L) Ritzau Scanpix (R) Martin Guldbaek/DR

A living member of the Royal Family who knew King Frederick IX – the father of the current Queen Margrethe II – also helped to put together the unusual royal reproduction, which can be viewed in full on the website of public service broadcaster DR.

The feature starts with a uniformed King Frederik, before baring his flesh to reveal his multiple tattoos and the stories behind them.

The King was known to appreciate the company of ‘normal’ people – a fact perhaps reflected in his partiality to body art.


Then-Crown Prince Frederik rowing in 1942, in one of the photographs used to recreate his tattoos. Photo: Ritzau Scanpix

“Frederik IX’s story is very much also Denmark’s story,” Søren Dalager Ditlevsen, a historical journalist with DR who worked on the development of the graphic, told The Local.

“A great many big changes occurred in both Denmark and Europe while he was Crown Prince and King. The monarchy was actually relatively close to being abolished, as was the case in a number of other countries. So he’s essentially an interesting person,” Ditlevsen explained.

King Frederik IX was born in 1899 and reigned Denmark from 1947 until his death in 1972.

The King’s tattoos, as well as being unusual for a monarch, were also fascinating for Ditlevsen because they “can typically tell you a lot about a person,” the journalist said.

DR’s researchers based their work to replicate the King’s tattoos on painstaking study of photographs and video footage of Frederik as both a young and an older man.

They then consulted tattoo artist and tattoo historian Frank Rosenkilde of the Bel Air Tattoo parlour in Copenhagen. Rosenkilde also runs the Danish Tattoo Museum.


Frank Rosenkilde's drawings recreating the King's tattoos. Photo: DR

Based on the DR research and his own knowledge of genres, styles and tattoo history, Rosenkilde re-drew King Frederik’s nine tattoos by hand. The tattoos were then transferred to the 3D figure.


Photo: Martin Guldbaek/DR

“It was relatively difficult, because there are only a few photographs and films in which (the King’s tattoos) can be properly seen. Many written sources, such as in newspapers and old books, proved to be quite unreliable and probably based on rumours and myths,” Ditlevsen told The Local.

Princess Benedikte, the Queen’s younger sister and King Frederik’s second daughter, also assisted the work on the 3D model, Ditlevsen revealed.

“In one instance we were helped by King Frederik IX’s daughter Princess Benedikte, who was able to tell us that a tattoo on his underarm pictured a fox. Because of bad photos, we couldn’t see what it was – our guesses had been anything from tiger to horse,” he said.

Although a 100 percent accurate reproduction was impossible due to the limited nature of visual source material, the researchers had come “as close as possible within the given timeframe” with the work, he noted.

Meanwhile, the snazzy leopard-print shorts sported by the King in the animation are not a creative flourish — he actually owned a pair just like them.

Anyone who may have additional information about the King’s tattoos is encouraged to get in touch with DR via email.

See the full 3D reproduction of King Frederik IX’s tattoo’s here.

READ ALSO: Inside the world's oldest tattoo parlour in Copenhagen 

 

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HISTORY

‘Lost’ manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

A book by one of France's most celebrated and controversial literary figures arrives in bookstores this week, 78 years after the manuscript disappeared

'Lost' manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

It is a rare thing when the story of a book’s publication is even more mysterious than the plot of the novel itself.

But that might be said of Guerre (War) by one of France’s most celebrated and controversial literary figures, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, which arrives in bookstores on Thursday, some 78 years after its manuscript disappeared.

Celine’s reputation has somehow survived the fact that he was one of France’s most eager collaborators with the Nazis.

Already a superstar thanks to his debut novel Journey to the End of the Night (1932), Celine became one of the most ardent anti-Semitic propagandists even before France’s occupation.

In June 1944, with the Allies advancing on Paris, the writer abandoned a pile of his manuscripts in his Montmartre apartment.

Celine feared rough treatment from authorities in liberated France, having spent the war carousing with the Gestapo, and giving up Jews and foreigners to the Nazi regime and publishing racist pamphlets about Jewish world conspiracies.

For decades, no one knew what happened to his papers, and he accused resistance fighters of burning them. But at some point in the 2000s, they ended up with retired journalist Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, who passed them – completely out of the blue – to Celine’s heirs last summer.

‘A miracle’
Despite the author’s history, reviews of the 150-page novel, published by Gallimard, have been unanimous in their praise.

“The end of a mystery, the discovery of a great text,” writes Le Point; a “miracle,” says Le Monde; “breathtaking,” gushes Journal du Dimanche.

Gallimard has yet to say whether the novel will be translated.

Like much of Celine’s work, Guerre is deeply autobiographical, recounting his experiences during World War I.

It opens with 20-year-old Brigadier Ferdinand finding himself miraculously alive after waking up on a Belgian battlefield, follows his treatment and hasty departure for England – all based on Celine’s real experiences.

His time across the Channel is the subject of another newly discovered novel, Londres (London), to be published this autumn.

If French reviewers seem reluctant to focus on Celine’s rampant World War II anti-Semitism, it is partly because his early writings (Guerre is thought to date from 1934) show little sign of it.

Journey to the End of the Night was a hit among progressives for its anti-war message, as well as a raw, slang-filled style that stuck two fingers up at bourgeois sensibilities.

Celine’s attitude to the Jews only revealed itself in 1937 with the publication of a pamphlet, Trifles for a Massacre, which set him on a new path of racial hatred and conspiracy-mongering.

He never back-tracked. After the war, he launched a campaign of Holocaust-denial and sought to muddy the waters around his own war-time exploits – allowing him to worm his way back into France without repercussions.

‘Divine surprise’
Many in the French literary scene seem keen to separate early and late Celine.

“These manuscripts come at the right time – they are a divine surprise – for Celine to become a writer again: the one who matters, from 1932 to 1936,” literary historian Philippe Roussin told AFP.

Other critics say the early Celine was just hiding his true feelings.

They highlight a quote that may explain the gap between his progressive novels and reactionary feelings: “Knowing what the reader wants, following fashions like a shopgirl, is the job of any writer who is very financially constrained,” Celine wrote to a friend.

Despite his descent into Nazism, he was one of the great chroniclers of the trauma of World War I and the malaise of the inter-war years.

An exhibition about the discovery of the manuscripts opens on Thursday at the Gallimard Gallery and includes the original, hand-written sheets of Guerre.

They end with a line that is typical of Celine: “I caught the war in my head. It is locked in my head.”

In the final years before his death in 1961, Celine endlessly bemoaned the loss of his manuscripts.

The exhibition has a quote from him on the wall: “They burned them, almost three manuscripts, the pest-purging vigilantes!”

This was one occasion – not the only one – where he was proved wrong.

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