The Royal Dozen
Princes, warlords, dandies and diplomats take the stage to form a lavish series of portraits titled The Royal Dozen. Through the study of nobility in history and portraiture, multimedia artist Alexia Sinclair has produced twelve innovative artworks formed from thousands of photographs and illustrations.
Legends of the lives of the nobles continue to captivate us today, from the pampered decadence of Louis XIV to the epic legend of Alexander the Great. Other rulers who also form this series are less renowned yet equally intriguing. An unusual blend of Royalty, their selection was based on their contrasts in leadership, their flamboyancies and their enduring influence upon society.
Travelling the globe photographing architecture and landscapes, Sinclair returned to Australia to hand make bespoke costuming for each portrait. Photographing role?playing models and props in the studio, she then meticulously stitched together her photographs and hand illustrations like pieces from a jigsaw puzzle.
In the style of the renaissance masters, Sinclair weaves a myriad of delicious symbols and motifs into each portrait, allowing each story to unfold. Exploring the complexities of the famous, the infamous and the obscure, these portraits celebrate historical realities within the guise of contemporary fantasy, a kind of conversation between the past and present.
Marquis de Sade
“The Sadist” (1740–1814)
Sade, known as the Marquis de Sade, was an aristocrat, revolutionary and writer famous for his libertine sexuality and lifestyle. Frequently incarcerated for his writing of smut and for cruelty and debauchery, many of his erotic novels were in fact written from within the walls of his apartments in prisons and asylums.
The term ‘Sadist’ is derived from his name.
The artwork revels in portraying the incarcerated Marquis in all of his powder‐ puffed glory, surrounded by the decadence of his era. Publishing from prison resulted in Sade having his papers and inks confiscated. As a consequence, Sade is said to have written a novel with his own blood onto the very suit he wore and had this published in place of paper. This story inspired the writing of Sade’s French novel onto the costuming within the artwork whilst his narcissistic handcuffed self portrait hangs on his wall.
“The Sun King” (1638–1715)
The king of France and Navarre, Louis’ reign represented the high point of the Bourbon dynasty and of French power in Europe. A major patron to the visual arts, he also encouraged the flourishing of classical French literature by protecting influential writers whilst his musicians thrived under his rule also.
Most memorably, Louis commissioned the construction of the magnificent palace of Versailles as one of his homes.
The artwork depicts Louis the Sun King in all his flamboyant glory inside Versailles. Frequently personifying the Greek God Apollo, Louis would often perform classical ballet in Apollo costume and the Sun King motif can be seen in anything and everything from Louis’ reign. The costuming in this work takes its inspiration from an original portrait of the young Louis in Apollo costume whilst the Fleur‐de‐les is the symbol of the House of Bourbon.
“Emperor of the French” (1769–1821)
Napoleon was born in Corsica to parents of minor noble Italian ancestry. He later became a military and political leader of France and Emperor of the French as Napoleon I. His actions shaped European politics in the early 19th century having established an empire stretching from Spain to Poland.
The artwork portrays the petite and slender Napoleon as he was in his youth. Known by his costuming alone, he is distinguished by his classical Roman nose and stands on a grassy knoll in the gardens of Versailles. Significant symbols in this work are the eagle and bees as symbols of Napoleon’s Empire. The eagle was the symbol of Imperial Rome whilst the bee was chosen to link the new dynasty under Napoleon’s rule to the very origins of France as well as symbolising the workers of the republic. Golden bees were discovered in the tomb of the founder of France and are the oldest emblem of sovereigns of France.
“The Merrie Monarch” (1630-1685)
King Charles II was King of England, Scotland and Ireland. Following the climax of the English Civil War and his father's consequential beheading, Charles fled England and often spent time in Versailles with his fashionable cousin Louis XIV.
Charles was restored to the throne after the collapse of Oliver Cromwell's regime. With his return came with him his taste for fashion and puppies.
The artwork shows Charles clutching the handsome descendants of his spaniels whilst sporting his stereotypical wig and silk wardrobe in front of Hampton Court. The spaniel takes its title from King Charles II, who was rarely seen without the company of his spaniels, even issuing a Royal edict that no King Spaniel can be denied entry into any public place.
Alexander the Great
“Son of Zeus” (356–323 bc)
Alexander III was the King of Macedon and one of the world’s greatest conquerors. He conquered Persia, Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Bactria, and the Punjab; he founded the city of Alexandria in Egypt. Alexander was said to have the heart of a lion and thus, he is surrounded by lion symbolism.
The Macedonians enjoyed sparring with Asiatic lions and Macedonian kings also wore lion skins. Alexander is depicted on coins wearing a lion headdress and was said to be the son of Zeus.
The artwork depicts Alexander fighting with lion by his side and lion headdress upon his head. In the background sandstone caryatides are integrated into the autumn landscape and depict a Macedonian figure wearing a lion skin.
“King of the World” (1592 –1666)
Emperor of the Mughal Empire in India, Shah Jahan’s name comes from the Persian meaning “king of the world”. One of the greatest ruling Mughals, his reign has been called the Golden Age of Mughals. On the eve of his death he was considered the most famous and powerful man on earth, in part due to his commissioning of some of the most delicate architectural masterpieces of the world. The luxurious Peacock Throne dates from his reign whilst he also commissioned the legendary Taj Mahal to be built as a tomb for his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal.
The Artwork focuses on the romantic tale of Shah Jahan’s undisputed love for his wife, for whom he built the Taj Mahal. Falling ill, he was imprisoned by his son at Agra Fort where he spent the remainder of his days gazing over the Taj Mahal. Upon his death, he was buried inside the mausoleum next to Mumtaz Mahal.
“The Great” (1672–1725)
Tsar of Russia, Peter I modernised his armed forces and expanded his territory in the Baltic. He transformed the Tsardom of Russia into a 3‐billion acre Russian Empire. A major European Empire, the jewel of his empire being the very city he built as his capital, St, Petersburg.
Considered a giant in his time, at 6 ft 8 inches in height, he towered over his contemporaries.
The artwork focuses on an obscure fact about the private interests of Peter. His curiosity about the world around him led to his building a famous collection known as his Cabinet of Curiosities, which later became the first museum of Russia. At his feet lie wood shavings, signifying his pursuit of learning carpentry and shipbuilding. Surrounded by curiosities, Peter clutches a human skull, bewildered by the site of butterflies resurrected from their framed enclosures.
Lorenzo de' Medici
“The Magnificent” (1449–1492)
Lorenzo was a key member of the House of Medici, a powerful Florentine family. Nicknamed the Godfathers of the Renaissance, de Medicis began their days as common merchants and seductively wove their way into political power through a combination of violence and patronage of the arts.
Lorenzo, a patron of the arts and humanist learning, supported Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo and spurred the renaissance.
The artwork depicts Lorenzo in a forest setting. Often enjoying the hunt in the rich Tuscan countryside, Lorenzo can be seen day dreaming on the forest floor, with a fox resting over his shoulder. His costuming laced with pearls and gems symbolising the rich merchant history of de Medici family.
“Son of the Dragon” (1431-1476)
Vlad III was the Prince of Wallachia (Southern Romania) and was more commonly known as Vlad the Impaler. Historically, Vlad is best known for his resistance against the Ottoman Empire and for the cruel punishments he imposed on his enemies. Impalement was Vlad's preferred method of torture and execution.
Vlad is believed to have inspired (in part) Bram Stoker's novel Dracula.
The artwork focuses on the fragility of life in a somewhat romantic scene that sees Vlad dancing with death. Holding a spike and conversing with death, Vlad pivots between life and death. This pendulum between life and death is further symbolised in the living deer deep in the forest and their antlers lifelessly lying in the foreground.
Pope Alexander VI
“The Borgia Pope” (1431 –1503)
Spanish born Roderic de Borja (Italian: Rodrigo Borgia) was one of the most controversial Renaissance popes. His surname became a byword for the debased standards of the Papacy of that era.
A famous account documents an orgy Alexander hosted along with his illegitimate children Cesare and Lucrezia at the Vatican named The Ballet of the Chestnuts.
The artwork takes its inspiration from two stories. It is rumoured that Lucrezia was in possession of a hollow ring and goblet that she used frequently to poison the drinks and meals of the Borgia enemies. The ring and goblet are symbolised within the ornamentation along with the chestnuts the pope is fondling in memory of The Ballet of the Chestnuts. In the background the walls are adorned with paintings of seductive women, below the dome of the Pantheon.
“The Mongol Warrior” (1162–1227)
Born Temujin, Genghis was the founder of the Mongol empire. He took the name Genghis Khan ("ruler of all”) in 1206 after uniting the nomadic Mongol tribes. When he died, his empire extended from China to the Black Sea. His grandson Kublai Khan completed the conquest of China.
Mongol troops were rarely seen off their horse. On occasions, the rider would cut the horse’s veins and drink the blood for sustenance, whilst also consuming their milk.
The artwork focuses on the relationship between Mongol and horse as well as the one obstacle that stood in Genghis’ way, The Great Wall of China. Genghis is dressed in layers of animal furs, riding a horse and balanced on the icy Great Wall.
“Grace of Baal” (247–182 bc)
A Carthaginian general, Hannibal is particularly famous for crossing the Alps on elephant back as a tactic of war against the Romans. In the second Punic War he attacked Italy by crossing the Alps and he repeatedly defeated the Romans, although he failed to take Rome itself.
The artwork depicts an armour clad Hannibal riding an elephant. The pair making their way from Northern Africa through the Pyrenees, the Alps and finally making their descent into Italy.
The artwork traces the path of Hannibal’s journey, combining the warm grassy landscape of Africa and the icy snow capped mountains of the Alps.