Gerson Digital : Denmark


3.6 Frederick III and Christian V

During the reigns of Frederick III and Christian V -- as Gerson clearly shows -- the art scene at the Danish court became much more dynamic than in the previous period. Many artists from the Republic -- such as Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts -- spent shorter or longer periods at the Danish court because they had a particular specialism to offer. But members of the Danish nobility or royalty also liked to have their portraits painted when they spent time in the Netherlands. In Bruges, in 1665, Jacob van Oost I (1603-1671) painted the portraits of the two daughters of Corfitz Ulfeldt and Leonora Christina, daughter of Christian IV: the then 22-years old Ellen Kristine Ulfeldt (1643-1677) [3], who was born in Brussels, and then the 16-years old Leonora Sophie Ulfeldt (1647-1698) [2], who was born in The Hague, where her father had been sent as an ambassador extraordinary before he fell out of favor of the Danish king for good. Christian V, in 1662 -- while still a Prince and on Grand Tour in Europe -- had his portrait made by Jan Lievens (1607-1674) in Amsterdam, a fact that is mentioned in his travel accounts. It could be the Portrait of a youth that nowadays is in Wawel Royal Castle in Cracow [1].1 Christian V had many Dutch and Flemish paintings in his collection, partly inherited from his father. He also acquired 51 flower pieces by Maria Sybilla Merian (1647-1717) [4], that are mentioned in the 1696 inventory of Rosenborg Castle.

Jan Lievens
Portrait of a young man with a moustache, c. 1662
canvas, oil paint 100 x 81 cm
Kraków, Zamek Królewski na Wawelu, inv./ 600

Jacob van Oost (I)
Portrait of Leonora Sophie Ulfeldt (1647-1698), dated 1665
canvas, oil paint 53 x 42 cm
upper left : J. v. O. (I)F. 1665
Hillerød, The National Museum of History Frederiksborg Castle, inv./ A7306

Jacob van Oost (I)
Portrait of Ellen Chirstina Ulfeldt (1643-1677), dated 1665
canvas, oil paint 53 x 42 cm
: J. v. O. Fe 1665
Hillerød, The National Museum of History Frederiksborg Castle, inv./ A7305

Maria Sibylla Merian
Rosenborg-florilegium, c. 1670-1685
340 x 260 mm
Copenhagen, The Royal Danish Collection - Rosenborg Castle

François de Bray was a marble painter and lacquer artist who worked in Denmark between 1663 and 1672. Early in this period, between 1663 and 1665,he decorated the Indian Tower at Rosenborg with chinoiserie lacquerwork inlaid with tortoiseshell and mother of pearl. Between 1667 and 1670 he transformed Christiaan IV’s former bedroom into the Chinese room [5]. The doors and wall panels were coated with dark green lacquer, etched with designs outlined with gold paint. De Bray drew his inspiration for the landscape scenes, ships and indoor tableaux from recent descriptions of China by Jan Nieuhof (1665), from the China monumentis […]illustrata treatise by Athanasius Kircher (1667) and from decorations in several traditional Chinese novels. Japanese decorative art from the Kunstkammer, including lacquered boxes, were also a source of inspiration for the artist. In the Chinese room the lacquerwork panels are set within a classical-style framework of pillasters and frieze edged with silver mouldings. As these rooms at Rosenborg are the earliest examples of chinoiserie in Europe, it is all the more remarkable that we know so little about the maker, whose name suggests a link with the De Bray family of artists from Haarlem. After his stay in Denmark De Bray went to Sweden where he worked for Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie (1673-1676).3

François de Bray
Lacquered panels in Christian IV's Bedroom at Rosenborg castle, Copenhagen, 1667-1670
panel, japan enamel ? x ? cm
Copenhagen, The Royal Danish Collection - Rosenborg Castle

Christian van Bracht (1637-1720) [7-8] was appointed marble painter and lacquer worker to the Danish Court in 1669. He was born around 1637 in the small port of Eckernförde in Sleeswig-Holstein. In December 1661, at the age of 24, he married Lysbeth Adriaens,3 who accompanied him to Copenhagen, where she died in 1679. After this, Van Bracht married a further two times. He received an annual salary from the King that was considerably higher than Abraham Wuchters’ salary in his final years. In 1693 he was also given a free house at Frederiksholm (the new part of the city along from Christianshavn) and a supply of free fuel every year. It is unclear what Van Bracht did during his first years in Denmark. We do know that in 1677 he produced the lacquerwork panels for the pulpit at the Maria Church in Bergen, Norway [7]. After this he was mainly involved in the decor of new premises or the refurbishing of existing halls and rooms in the royal palaces, including the Audience Room and Gallery at Frederiksborg (1684-1686), the Great Hall at Rosenborg (1706) and the church at Frederiksborg (1711). In 1716 he also restored De Bray’s Indian Tower Room at Rosenborg [9].4

Christian van Bracht and Anoniem voor 1676
Pulpit with female figures and chinoiseries, before 1676
wood, oil paint ? x ? x ? cm
Bergen (Norway), Mariakirken (Bergen)

Abraham Wuchters
Portrait of a young man, possibly Christian van Bracht
ivory 8,6 x 7,2 cm
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark, inv./ KMS3271

Anoniem 1691 gedateerd (?)
(Self)portrait of Christian van Bracht, dated 1691 (?)
panel, oil paint 49 x 40 cm
Hillerød, The National Museum of History Frederiksborg Castle, inv./ A 4010

François de Bray and Christian van Bracht
Lacquered panels in the Lacquered Room at Rosenborg castle, Copenhagen, 1663-1665 and 1706/1716
panel, japan enamel, mother of pearl ? x ? cm
Copenhagen, The Royal Danish Collection - Rosenborg Castle

Christoffer van Bracht
Wooded landscape, dated 1697
panel, gold leaf, japan enamel 8,5 x 10,5 cm
: Christoffer van B/ 1697
Private collection

Christian had three sons who assisted him with his commissions: Christian Carl (active 1684-1703), Christoffer (active 1696-1706) [10] and Johan (died 1710). In 1691 the King gave Christian van Bracht 200 rix-dollars for a study trip to Rome for one of these young men, but it is unclear for whom the subsidy was intended because both Christian Carl and Johan received a travel permit in this same year. Johan travelled to the Republic in 1693 to purchase materials. In the final years of his life he was mentioned specifically as a colleague of his father’s. Father and sons were famous for their use of ‘gloss’ lacquer, that created a high sheen. Christian van Bracht also produced decorative vases with figures in relief, miniature equestrian statues of the King on a pedestal, hunting scenes in papier-mâché, lacquer paintings with landscapes and landscape miniatures [11]. Christian’s daughter, Elisabeth, married another lacquer worker at the court: Carsten Tønder (c. 1687-1761). A son from this marriage was named after his grandfather Frederik (Friedrich) Christian van Bracht (c. 1720-1759). At the young age of 16-17, he was already producing paintings for the King and later became a painter and gilder at the Danish court. He painted views of Frederiksborg and Frederiksberg, water colours featuring flowers and landscapes [12], among others a work in the style of Philip Wouwerman, now in the Statens Museum for Kunst.5

Christian van Bracht
Vulcan in a landscape
panel, gilded, oil paint 38 x 34 cm
Kunsthallen (Copenhagen) 1993-11-15 - 1993-11-17, nr. 8

Frederik Christian van Bracht free after Philips Wouwerman
Horsemen near two tents in a hilly landscape
vellum, gouache (material/technique) 173 x 225 cm
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark

The Amsterdam artist Jacob Coning (c. 1648-1724) worked in Copenhagen from 1676 until his death. Coning was the first artist in Denmark who was a specialist painter of landscapes and townscapes, and individual buildings. In 1698-1699 he travelled with a royal subsidy to Norway, where he made numerous paintings featuring the imposing Norwegian natural environment with its rocks, pine trees and waterfalls.6

Another highly regarded artist was Toussaint Gelton (c. 1630-1680) from The Hague, who lived and worked for long periods in Copenhagen, where he also died.7 After the Peace of Roskilde in 1658, Gelton, as court artist in the service of the Danish King, was summoned by Charles X Gustav to Göteborg, where the Swedish monarch was residing temporarily. Gelton spent ten months working for the conqueror, and also worked in Sweden for a period of time in the 1660s. In particular after 1674 the Danish King often commissioned works from Gelton. In that year he travelled to a number of courts in Germany to paint portraits of family members of the King. As well as small portraits, he made Biblical and mythological works. During the Danish-Swedish War (1675-1679) Gelton executed a (now lost) series of paintings depicting the main battles.8

At Gelton’s request, Romeyn de Hooghe (1645-1708) in Amsterdam supplied a series of large engravings of the Danish-Swedish War of 1675-1679, that form the basis of a series of twelve paintings in the Audience Room at Frederiksborg, of which seven (the land scenes) were by Antonie van Steenwinckel (†1688). Only one of them has survived [13]. The twelve paintings in their turn formed the basis for the tapestry series in the Great Hall at Rosenborg, that at this time was being drastically renovated and for which the above-mentioned series by Pieter Isaacsz about the Life of Man, from the start of the 17th century was dismantled. The skilled tapestry weaver from Brabant, Berent van der Eichen, and his assistants were summoned to the court to work on this series [14]. He continued to work there until 1700 and was very successful.9

Very little is known about Antonie van Steenwinckel himself [15], a son of royal architect Hans van Steenwinckel II. He probably learned his skills from his uncle Morten van Steenwinckel. He worked for the King from 1671 and from around 1680 he restored paintings at Rosenborg.10 It was not until 1681 that he was given a permanent position as royal artist. Besides the scenes from the Danish-Swedish War mentioned above, he also painted portraits that are now only known from prints by Hubert Schaten. Antonie was married twice, the first time to Christine Brinck (died 1685) and the second time, in 1687, to Marie de Groot, who presented him with a son posthumously. Antonie van Steenwinckel was buried on 29 October 1688 in the Nicolai Church.11 What is remarkable is that, like Karel van Mander III, he left behind at his death an extensive collection that was auctioned at the end of 1688.12 From the title page of the auction catalogue it appears that Antonie and his wife lived at Christianshavn, in ‘Messieurs Møllers’ house. This was probably Daniel Møller, drawing teacher to the children of Christian V, one of whom was later to become King Frederick IV. Unlike Karel van Mander III, Antonie van Steenwinckel did not own an extensive Cabinet of Curiosities. His library, with many German and Dutch works, also fell short of that of Van Mander. However, besides paintings, he owned many hundreds of drawings and prints, some bound together, others as loose copies. The auction catalogue, too, differed from that of Karel van Mander III, in that it gives a complete overview of the furniture, the kitchen equipment, the linen and clothes cupboard, the jewellery, the silver, tin, copper, etc., of the artist and his wife. Many of the items are described as ‘Dutch’. Just as with Karel van Mander III, the King had first choice at the auction, after which he settled his account scrupulously with Van Steenwinckel’s widow.13

Antonie van Steenwinckel
Christian V captures Landskrona's Citadel, August 4, 1676, 1684-1688
canvas, oil paint 278 x 358 cm
Hillerød, The National Museum of History Frederiksborg Castle, inv./ A 107

tapestry workshop of Berent van der Eichen after Antonie van Steenwinckel and after Lambert van Haven
Christian V captures Landskrona's Citadel, August 4, 1676, 1684-1692
woven (technique), wool, silk 380 x 430 cm
Copenhagen, The Royal Danish Collection - Rosenborg Castle

Antonie van Steenwinckel
Self-portrait of Antonie van Steenwinckel, c. 1678-1685
canvas, oil paint 85 x 64 cm
upper left : Steenwinkel / og / Hùsfrù / Ipse pinxit
Antwerp, Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp

At the end of the 17th century, a taste for French art and fashion developed, like elsewhere at courts in Europe.14 Following the death of Abraham Wuchters in 1682, the Franco-English artist Jacob d’Agar (1642-1715) became in 1686 the foremost artist at court in Denmark [16].15

Sculptors from the Netherlands, however, did continue to play an important role at the Danish court. Between 1681 and 1690 Jan Wilckens van Verelt (†1692) decorated the ceiling and doors of the Gallery that leads to the Audience Room at Frederiksborg with a rich stucco decoration [17].16 In 1689 the son of Artus Quellinus II, Thomas Quellinus (1661-1709) came to Copenhagen, where he was to remain until 1706. A series of impressive funeral monuments by him have been preserved [18-19].17 After the extensive city fire of Copenhagen 1728, several architects from the Republic again became active there. These included Philip de Lange (1704-1766), from the circle of Daniel Marot, who has a large number of buildings to his name.18

Jacques d' Agar
Portrait of Christian V, King of Denmark, c. 1685
canvas, oil paint ? x ? cm
Copenhagen, The Royal Danish Collection - Rosenborg Castle

Jan Wilckens van Verelt
Stucco decorations for the hallway of the audience room of Frederiksborg Castle, 1682
paper, pen and brush in brown, watercolor 391 x 308 mm
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark, inv./ KKSgb9670

Thomas Quellinus
Funerary monument of Officer Hans Friis (1625-1697), 1691
marble, sandstone ? x ? cm
Hørning, Hørning Kirke

Thomas Quellinus
Funerary monument of Marcus Gøye (1635-1698), 1700
marble ? x ? cm
Næstved, Herlufsholm Kirke (Næstved)


1 Eller 1971, p. 70 and note 182; Tuxen 1892, p. 124.
#fn2 Boesen 1977, pp. 24-27; Clemmensen/Mackeprang 1980; Bencard/Høj Madsen 1987, p. 96; Hein et al. 1989, pp. 130-133; Hein/Christiansen 2005, pp. 19 and 39; Bencard/Hein 2007, pp. 16 and 29; Hein 2009, vol. I, pp. 49-51, 66-67. Sun 2013, p. 271.

3 ‘Den 9 decb 1661/ Compareerden Christianus van Bracht van eijckenvoort / Schilder oud 24 J geas[sisteert] met onder consent [wonende] inde oude tichelstraet end Lijsbeth Adriaens van de[ze][stad=Amsterdam] /oud 23 geas [sisteert] met haer moeder Grietje’ (Amsterdam City Archives, DTB 685, p. 120).

4 It seems that Christian van Bracht and Toussaint Gelton were friends, see § 8.5.

5 Kunstindeks Danmark & Weilbach Kunstnerleksikon online (article G. Boesen); De Vries 1885, p. 60; Boesen 1977, pp. 24-47; Boesen 1979, pp. 35-38.

6 See Gerson, § 2.12 and 2.13.

7 On Gelton, see Gerson, § 2.13. Letters by Gelton containing many unusual details about his life have survived and were published in Danish by G. Rasmussen (Rasmussen 1916). This article has been included in English translation in the present publicatio, see § 8.

8 Lassen et al. 1973, p. 292.

9 Lassen et al. 1973, pp. 292-294; Bøggold Johannsen/Johannsen 1993-1996, pp. 185-186; Boesen 1949; Johanen/Kristiansen 1999.

10 Eller 1971, p. 63.

11 Kunstindeks Danmark & Weilbach Kunstnerleksikon online (article: H. Johannsen).

12 Auction Copenhagen 1688.

13 Eller 1971, pp. 118-119.

14 See Gerson, § 2.14.

15 Lassen et al. 1973, pp. 298-308.

16 Holck/Beckett 1914-1918, vol. I, pp. 186, 267; Lorenzen 1936, p. 37.

17 Two of his fellow countrymen, Abraham Breusegem and Emanuel Cuekelaere, were involved in the decoration of the altar in the Vor Frelsers Church by Nicodemus Tessin II from 1697 to 1699; Lassen et al. 1973, p. 318.

18 Elling 1927-1928; Roding 2003; Noldus 2014.

Cookies disclaimer

I agree Our site saves small pieces of text information (cookies) on your device in order to deliver better content and for statistical purposes. You can disable the usage of cookies by changing the settings of your browser. By browsing our website without changing the browser settings you grant us permission to store that information on your device.