Gerson Digital : Denmark


3.2 The Reign of Frederick II: Kronborg

As mentioned before, from 1567 onwards, immigration of people from the Low Countries into Denmark increased sharply. These newcomers included the architects, sculptors, painters and wood carvers who from 1574 were involved in Frederick II’s rebuilding of the old castle on the Sound in Helsingør into the imposing Kronborg Castle.1 Many of these immigrants settled for good in Helsingør, where they worked for members of the nobility as well as for the King.2 In 1599, one-eighth of the inhabitants of Helsingør were Dutch, and they made up the wealthiest group of citizens in the city.3

The best known stonemason was Gert van Groningen (†1577), who in 1573 was given a position at court.4 He was living in Aarhus at the time, where he was probably working for nobleman Holger Rosenkrantz. A year later he moved to Helsingør, where he was involved in the decoration of Kronborg until 1576, at which time he fell into disgrace because he was involved in a strike. One of his most impressive works is the wall epitaph for Holger Rosenkrantz and his wife Mette Krognos in the church at Uth (before 1575) [1].

Gert van Groningen
Wall epitaph of Holger Rosenkrantz (1517-1575) and his wife Mette Krognos, before 1575
? x ? cm
Horsens, Uth Kirke

Certainly from 1577, but possibly earlier, the Nijmegen-born Johan Gregor van der Schardt (c. 1530- after 1581) was working for Frederick II. Together with Georg Labenwolff, he was probably involved in the construction of the large fountain at Kronborg that has disappeared [2].5 He also produced the painted terracotta bust of Frederick II at Frederiksborg [3].6 Dutch sculptors, too, were active in the province under the patronage of Frederick II. The tombstone for Commissioner Thomas Sture and his wife Barthe Ahlefeldt in the small church at Notmark op Als, is inscribed with the text: ‘Anno 1569 do vort dit gemaket van Jacop van der Borch’ (Made by Jacob van der Borch in the year 1569) [4].7 An artist of this name was working in Utrecht between 1520 and 1534.

Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr after Georg Labenwolff
The metal fountain of Georg Labenswolff that was sent to Denmark in 1583, 1730
paper ? x ? mm
upper center : Georg Labenswolffs grosser Spring-brunnen aus Metall, der / Anno i1583 nach Dännemarck verschicht worden
Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, inv./ HB 26905

Johan Gregor van der Schardt
Portrait of King Frederick II of Denmark (1534-1588), 1578
terracotta 37 x 29 x 30 cm
Hillerød, The National Museum of History Frederiksborg Castle, inv./ A 2783

Jacob van der Borch (II)
Tombstone of Thomas Sture (1503-1563) and his wife Barthe Ahlefeldt (1518-1584), dated 1569
332 x 142 cm
bottom (positional attribute) : Anno 1569 do vort dit gemaket van Jacop van der Borch
Augustenborg, Notmark Kirke

During the period of Christian III’s and Frederick II’s reign, there was a strong increase in the demand for and interest in Dutch painting, in particular portrait painting. As the nobility wanted to demonstrate their ancestry, portraits were made not only of living but also of long-dead individuals. One of the first Dutch names from this period is Jost Verheiden (active 1555-1563), who worked for the King at Koldinghus [5]. The large family tree with portraits, that is now kept at Gripsholm Castle in Sweden, may well be by him.8 Another artist, Anthonius Samfleth or Sandfeldt, who was active between 1567 and 1581, painted many portraits for Frederick II, including the series of 117 Danish kings, that was to be incorporated a number of years later into the famous series of tapestries by Hans Knieper (Hans de Knipper) at Kronborg.9 Knieper ( †1587) was summoned from the Southern Netherlands in 1577 and was given his own studio in Helsingør. Besides tapestries, Knieper also produced portraits, the most famous work to be attributed to him being the portrait of Frederick II dating from 1581, intended as a gift for the Count of Hessen [6]. This is the first full-length portrait made of a Danish monarch. Besides Knieper, the Danish artist Melchior Lorck (c. 1526/27-after 1583), who had studied in Lübeck and the Netherlands with financial support from Christian III,10 and Tobias Gemperle who came from Augsburg (c. 1550-1587) were also active in Denmark. The last of these was probably brought to the country by the famous astronomer Tycho Brahe. Gemperle had a teacher from the Southern Netherlands: Abraham del Hele.11

after Jost Verheiden
Portrait of Christian III (1503-1559), king of Denmark and Norway, 1550s
canvas, oil paint 118 x 94 cm
Stockholm, Nationalmuseum Stockholm, inv./ NMGrh 1150

Melchior Lorck
Portrait of Frederick II (1534-1588), King of Denmark and Norway, dated 1582
paper, copper engraving 450 x 320 mm
lower left : Melchior Lorichs ad usum delineabat A: 1580/Et in cet sculpebat A: 1582
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark, inv./ KKSgb5008

Hans Knieper
Portrait of King Frederick II of Denmark and Norway (1534-1588), dated 1581
panel, oil paint 220 x 111 cm
Hillerød, The National Museum of History Frederiksborg Castle, inv./ A 2171

attributed to Gerrit Cornelisz
Portrait van Markvard Bille til Hvidkilde (1568-1631), dated 1596
oil paint 111 x 80 cm
Hillerød, The National Museum of History Frederiksborg Castle, inv./ A 2759

Following the death of Hans Knieper in 1587, another Netherlandish artist was summoned to Denmark almost immediately: Gerrit Cornelisz. van Haarlem (active 1585-1601). He, too, painted mainly portraits of the King and his family, and of Danish nobles [7-8]. He also painted and gilded pieces of furniture. The Triumph of Sin after Petrarch, at Gavnø Castle is also by him[9].12

Gerrit Cornelisz
Triumph of Sin, last quarter 16th century
panel, oil paint 97 x 95 cm
lower right : Corn. v. Harlem
Private collection


1 Dalsager 1950; Historiske huse 1973; Malmö 1977.

2 For the building activities and the patronage of the Danish aristocracy during the Renaissance: Bøggild Johannsen/Johannsen 2005.

3 Tønnesen 1985; Tønnesen 2003.

4 Tønnesen 1970; Johannsen 1995.

5 Johannsen 2006, p. 296; Christensen 2005, p. 162.

6 Lassen et al. 1973, p. 80.

7 Lassen et al. 1973, pp. 52-54, ill. 36.

8 Beckett 1932.

9 Mackeprang/Christensen 1950; Woldbye 2002.

10 Fischer 1962; Fischer 1996; Bøgh Rasmussen 2011.

11 Andrup 1937, pp. 39-40; Lassen et al. 1973, pp. 68-71; see also Gerson, § 2.9.

12 Andrup 1937, pp. 40-41; Lassen et al. 1973, pp. 97-102. There were seven portraits in the name of Gerrit Cornelisz in the catalogue of the art collection owned by Terkel Klevenfeldt (1777), all on panels. See also Gerson, § 2.9.

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