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Ludwig's Swan

 . . . was the first of a series of paintings inspired by the real life 'Swan King' himself, Ludwig II of Bavaria, an eccentric king who ruled southern Germany in the 19th century. He led a tragic and unfulfilled life but one of his legacies to his country were his magnificent fairy tale castles he built during his reign. At the time he was considered as being controversial by his subjects; building these structures was thought to be a waste of money. However, today many tourists flock to see them (myself included) and they provide the main income for the towns in which they were built. Ludwig II is also know as the 'Swan King', due to his obsession with all things swan-like (which stemmed from his love of the opera, Lohengrin, by Wagner). In this painting there are a lot of symbolic gestures that tell a portion of Ludwig's life. The full moon represents Ludwig's preference of night over day, the weeping willow forms a theatrical curtain shielding the swan away from view (Ludwig's hermit lifestyle) and jasmine is scattered on the lake (a bunch of jasmine was placed in Ludwig's hand whilst he was lying in state, after his death under unusual circumstances, by his favourite cousin Elisabeth). In the distance you can see Neuschwanstein castle, built in the style of a mythical grail castle, shimmering in the moonlight. When I went to visit the crypt in Munich were Ludwig II rests, I threaded a copy of this image through the railing around his coffin. I hope it still remains there . . .

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