You are standing in front of a carefully considered PR stunt from the seventeenth century. A princess in an extremely low-cut dress that exposes her breasts, and a duke holding a recorder, wearing a wreath on his head. Why were a royal couple depicted in this way, dressed up as mythological figures?
At the time the picture was painted, the two subjects, Christian Albrecht, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp and Princess Frederica Amalia of Denmark-Norway, had just got married.
As part of a campaign to celebrate the duke, the artist Jürgen Ovens painted a series of portraits of the newly wedded couple. Graeco-Roman mythology was fashionable among European elites, and Oven’s painting communicates the princess's and the duke's qualities through the use of symbols and mythological references.
The princess is depicted as Ceres, the Roman goddess of harvests and fertility — which accounts for her naked breasts — and the duke is depicted as Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and a symbol of abundance. With such qualities, the two were the perfect couple to take care of their people.
In the years leading up to the wedding, their respective countries had endured a number of wars. By proposing marriage to the Danish king's sister, Christian Albrecht showed his willingness to create political stability and peace. Their 1667 wedding was just one piece of a wider political game for power in the region.