Gerson Digital : Denmark


2.16 Art Collections

We have already spoken a little about collectors of Dutch art when we reported on artists in the service of Christian IV. Like Pieter Isaacsz and Simon de Passe, they were often both painter and dealer. In 1650 more than 550 paintings were counted in Frederiksborg castle. And how many more must have been offered to the King over the years? When a Danish envoy, Dr. Jonas Charisius (1571-1619) [1], visited the Netherlands in 1607 and 1608, he purchased an impressive number of 141 paintings for his king. A few years later the enterprising and resourceful ‘Sir’ Theodorus Rodenburgh (c.1577-1644) [2] brought with him all of ‘350 pieces worth about 20,000 rix-dollars’ (350 stucken omtrent de waarde van twintich duysent rijckxdaelders), which he offered to the king, after which he asked to be allowed to display the pictures in the uninhabited Ibstrup Castle. From 1621, moreover, Rodenburgh had power of attorney to recruit Netherlandish artists, craftsmen, merchants and entrepreneurs for Denmark, but the king appears not to have heeded his proposal to introduce Jodocus de Momper, Salomon de Bray and a certain Govert Jansz Poelenburg to his service.1

Hendrik Hondius (I)
Portrait of Jonas Charisius (1571-1619), 1608
paper, engraving 191 x 119 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet, inv./ RP-P-1906-1264

Jan Gillisz. van Vliet after Rembrandt
Pilate showing Christ to the people 'Ecce Homo' (John 19:4-6), dated 1636
paper, etching, inkt, 4th state 549 x 447 mm
lower left : Rembrandtf.1636 cum privile
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet, inv./ RP-P-OB-614A

Lucas Kilian
Portrait of Theodorus Rodenburgh (c.1574-1644), before 1639
paper, copper engraving 155 x 97 mm
The Hague, RKD – Nederlands Instituut voor Kunstgeschiedenis (Collectie Iconografisch Bureau)

One must not forget that the cultural ties between the Scandinavian countries and the Dutch Republic were very close, that many Scandinavian students attended the University of Leiden, and that the numerous agents representing Christian IV and his successors in the Netherlands, promoted cultural exchange. In addition, Danes who visited the Netherlands seized the opportunity to have themselves portrayed by Dutch painters. The extensive portrait collection in Frederiksborg offers many examples. The short-lived Prince Elect Christian collected Flemish pictures and engravings by Rembrandt [3],2 and Christian V, who took over the art cabinet founded by Frederick III, already owned a very impressive collection of Dutch pictures by mannerists such as Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem [4] and by Rembrandt students such as Leonaert Bramer [5],3 Gerard Dou [6] and Ferdinand Bol (a portrait of Michiel de Ruyter that was sent to him in 1669) [7], in addition to other works by Gerard Houckgeest [8], Pieter Wouwerman [9] and sundry Dutch artists active in Denmark.

Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem
Allegory of the brevity of life, dated 1617
panel, oil paint 47 x 58,5 cm
below, right of the middle : CvH 1617 (vH intertwined)
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark, inv./ 341

Leonaert Bramer
The adoration of the Magi, second half of the 1630s
copper, oil paint 28 x 34 cm
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark, inv./ KMSsp382

Gerard Dou
Young woman in a kitchen, with a boy holding a mouse trap, c. 1650-1660
panel, oil paint 41,3 x 30,5 cm
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark, inv./ KMS1966

Ferdinand Bol
Portrait of Michiel Adriaensz. de Ruyter (1607-1676), dated 1668 and 1669
canvas, oil paint 130,5 x 117,5 cm
lower right : 1668
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark

Gerard Houckgeest
Interior of the St.-Gertudis church in Bergen op Zoom, dated 1655
panel, oil paint 132 x 108,5 cm
lower right : GH 1655
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark, inv./ KMSsp425

Pieter Wouwerman (II) after Stefano della Bella
View of the Pont Neuf in Paris, after 1646
canvas, oil paint 114,5 x 155 cm
lower right : P Wouwerman.
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark, inv./ KMSsp504

studio of Rembrandt
The supper at Emmaus, 1648
canvas, oil paint 89,5 x 111,5 cm
lower right : Rembrandt f. 1648
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark, inv./ KMSsp405

The royal collection took a great leap forward under the direction of Gerhard Morell (c. 1710-1771),4 who undertook journeys to the Dutch Republic in 1759 and 1763, buying more than 170 paintings, including the beautiful Rembrandt Christ at Emmaus [10]5 and pictures by Paulus Potter, Jacob van Ruisdael [11] and Allaert van Everdingen [12].6 The pictures were kept in Christianborg Castle, where one could view them on request.

Jacob van Ruisdael
Evening landscape with a road past oak trees, c. 1660
canvas, oil paint 53 x 67 cm
lower right : v. Ruisdael
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark, inv./ KMS372

Allaert van Everdingen
River in a pine forest
canvas, oil paint 85,5 x 121 cm
lower right : A.v.Everdingen.
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark, inv./ KMS385

The holdings were enlarged at the beginning of the 19th century with additional Dutch pictures through the acquisition of the collection of the Johan Christian Bodendick (1735-1818) [13] and that of the Consul Hans West (1758-1811). In 1809 the Gallery was opened to the public. Around the same time, that is, in the second half of the 18th century, originated the collections of the counts Moltke [14],7 which have since been dissolved, and the Thott and Gaunø collection, which was able to compete with the royal collections in terms of quantity, but not quality. During the 18th century, State Minister Count Otto Thott (1703-1785) [15] displayed the most important pictures, around 1,000 works, in his Copenhagen palace.

Jens Juel
Portrait of Johan Christian Bodendick (1735-1818), dated 1789
canvas, oil paint 69 x 53,5 cm
: J.Juel 1789
København, Medicinsk-historisk Museum, inv./ I-000244

Johann Martin Preissler after Per Krafft (I)
Portrait of Otto Thott (1703-1785), dated 1783
paper, engraving ? x ? mm
lower left : P. Kraft pinxit
Copenhagen, SMK - The Royal Collection of Graphic Art

Jens Juel
Portrait of count Adam Gottlob Motlke (1710-1792), 1780
canvas, oil paint 77,5 x 61,5 cm
Private collection


1 [Gerson 1942/1983] Kernkamp 1902, pp. 105, 198, 216, 230, 254. – On the history of the collection at Frederiksborg, see Holck/Beckett 1914-1918, vol. 2, pp. 86-93, with detailed lists of pictures (compiled by Beckett). [Van Leeuwen 2015] On Charisius, see Roding 1997, p. 97, Noldus 2006, pp. 58, 58, 61 and Noldus 2011. On the activities of Rodenburgh, see also Noldus 2007, pp. 156-158. On Govert Jansz, see Bok/Dudok van Heel 2006.

2 [Gerson 1942/1983] Andrup 1920, pp. 99-100. [Van Leeuwen 2015] A fourth impression of this print, now in the Kobberstiksammling in Copenhagen (inv. no. KKS GB 7421), may have been acquired by Prince Christian in 1646.

3 [Van Leeuwen 2015] Bramer has traditionally been associated with the circle of Rembrandt, though without good reason (e.g., see Saur 1992-, vol. 13 [1996], p. 579).

4 [Van Leeuwen 2015} On Morell’s acquisitions, see the article by Michael North, § 6.

5 [Van Leeuwen 2015] Now as an as anonymous pupil from Rembrandt’s workshop (Rønberg/Pedersen/Van de Wetering 2006, p. 284, no. 11).

6 [Gerson 1942/1983] Hertz 1924, p. 358. [Van Leeuwen 2015] However, the painting by Potter (RKDimages 245612) that Hertz illustrates on p. 356, is not one of the Morell’s acquisitions. It was acquired in 1739.

7 [Van Leeuwen 2015] On Adam Moltke, see Jespersen et al. 2010.

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