Gerson Digital : Denmark


2.1 Dutch Art and Danish Rulers

One cannot speak of the influence of Dutch art on the indigenous painting of the Scandinavian countries, because artistic production was almost entirely in the hands of foreigners. According to Karl Madsen (1855-1938) [1], the great connoisseur of Danish art, there was no more a distinctive Danish art in the 17th century than there had been in the 16th.1 As in England, therefore, the problem of influences will hardly need to be discussed. Imported art is always in large measure dependent on the taste, artistic ambition and means at the disposal of the ruling family. Well, Denmark had no problems in this respect. Christian IV (ruled 1596-1648)2 and his son Frederick III (ruled 1648-1670), but also the natural children of these two rulers and sundry members of the Gyldenløve family, who held high state appointments, were great lovers of art, patronized many Dutch artists and spent considerable sums on Dutch works of art. The buildings of Christian IV were for the greater part erected by Netherlandish architects.3

Vilhelm Hammershøi
Portrait of Karl Madsen (1855-1938), later director of the Statens Museum for Kunst, 1890
canvas, oil paint 39 x 28,5 cm
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark, inv./ KMS4207

As protector of the arts, Christian IV [2] certainly achieved no less for his country than Charles I, who happened to be his nephew, did for England.4 To this day the Danish collections owe sundry portraits of English rulers, painted by Dutch artists and presented as gifts to the Danish court, to this family connection. They formed good complements to the works of other Dutch portraitists. Before we turn to them, however, we still need to cast a glance at the interior decoration of the castles of Christian IV.

Karel van Mander (III)
Portrait of King Christian IV (1577-1648) with a landscape in the background, c. 1643-1644
canvas, oil paint 242 x 146 cm
Copenhagen, Amalienborg


1 [Gerson 1942/1983] Madsen et al. 1901-1907, p. 69.

2 [Gerson 1942/1983] Born 1577; King as of 1588; crowned in 1596.

3 [Gerson 1942/1983] Vermeulen 1931, pp. 458 ff.

4 [Van Leeuwen 2015] Christian IV of Denmark had a sister named Anne, who was married to James I, King of Scotland and England. Their son, Charles I, was therefore a nephew of Christian IV.

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