Gerson Digital : Denmark


4.4 The Ensemble of the Winter Room

In the King's living room, adjacent to the Studiolo, Christian IV's monogram and the year 1615 decorate the large, marbled sandstone mantelpiece. The extraordinary interior is practically unique in Europe and largely untouched since 1620. As far as we know, only on two locations can be found more or less comparable rooms. One is in Château Gaillard Pierre Sérent in Vannes (Bretagne), dating from around 1640 [1]. The cabinet of approximately five by four meters is decorated with 57 panel paintings and eight canvasses depicting scenes from the lives of Jesus Christ and the Desert Fathers. Most of their compositions are based on prints by Maerten de Vos and Abraham Bloemaert .1 The other room is at the Manor House Ludwigsburg near Eckernförde (South Schleswig), where Friedrich Christian of Kielmannseck acquired the estate Kohöved, today Ludwigsburg, and redesigned it to his principal residence. After 1672 he had the so-called Coloured Room installed a panelling of oak with inserted square and oval oil paintings by Flemish artists who applied motifs from emblem books [2].2

Except for Horst Gerson in 1942, only a few (art) historians studied and described the paintings in the Winter Room in the past, and only in appendices to the building history of the castle. It was assumed that the room was decorated with Dutch and Flemish panels already present in the collections of other castles and randomly assembled and mounted in the panelling ─ which according to the date of the fireplace must have been finished in 1615. This thought was supported by the fact that four of the paintings had been trimmed at the top or at one side to fit the overall decorative program of the panelling; it seemed logical to conclude that this was done to achieve a uniform size for this decorative project. The joinery of the panelling was begun in 1614 by Gregers Greus (active 1598-1616),while Valentin Dressler (active 1613-1619) was responsible for the stucco ceiling which was decorated in its turn by the already mentioned painter Samuel Clausen.

Anoniem Antwerpen (stad) ca. 1640
Scenes from the life of Jesus Christ and the Desert Fathers, c. 1640
panel, oil paint ? x ? cm
Vannes (Bretagne), Musée Archéologique


Bunte Kammer, 1672

About 140 years ago Frederik R. Friis (1836-1910), one of the first historians to write about the building of the castle, found proof that, after the untimely death of Greus in 1616, the Copenhagen master joiner Willum Moor completed the unfinished work of the panelling of the Winter Room in 1616-1617. Friis assumed that the work on the Winter Room had been a continuous project and that it was completed in 1617.3 Much later, the historian Henrik Carl Bering Liisberg (1854-1929) thought that the first decorations of the Winter Room were finished in 1615 and that Willum Moor and later Hans Jørgen Dill (active 1619 and 1624) redecorated the room in the years between 1615 and 1620 to give it its present appearance.4 In 1930 Vilhem Wanscher (1875-1961) published his research on the building history of Rosenborg. He stated that 1615 must have been the year of completion, again primarily basing his assumption on the inscription on the fireplace.5

These descriptions do not give much information on the provenance of the paintings in the Winter Room. In fact it was Horst Gerson who wrote in 1942 that the Flemish paintings ‘[… ] were apparently rendered on commission and made to measure as a group in Antwerp at the beginning of the 17th century to serve as decoration for the walls here’,6 something which was confirmed by our extensive examination of the paintings, the painting techniques employed and the construction of the panels and their formats.7 Also the different processes used in the framing have confirmed our hypothesis that the room must have been the result of a single order: the paintings and their frames were produced in Antwerp while the fitting of the many already framed paintings into the oak panelling was laboriously carried out in Copenhagen, as will be explained later.

Technical studies demonstrate that the nucleus of 75 Flemish paintings in the Winter Room was produced between 1610 and 1620. The 12 emblematic paintings in the window glades do not belong to the group of Antwerp paintings and were possibly preserved from the first interior decoration of the room, carried out by a Danish painter between 1614 and May 1615. Due to a construction of two bay windows at the north wall in 1758, four more allegorical representations and four landscapes were added, giving the Winter Room a total of 95 paintings. In rows of three above each other they are set in richly carved oak panelling and divided by fluted oak columns with Ionic capitals, strap-work, and impressive bases. The bases are each carved with different masks; all varieties of these astonishlingly grimacing masks are modelled after prints designed by Cornelis Floris II (1514-1575) and engraved by Frans Huys (1522-1562) in 1555 in Antwerp [3-4].8 These prints were earlier used in Denmark as a source of inspiration for decorative purposes under Frederick II (1534-1588).9

Anoniem Denemarken ca. 1615 after Cornelis Floris (II)
Base of a column in the woodwork of the Winter Room, ca. 1615
oak ? x ? cm
Copenhagen, The Royal Danish Collection - Rosenborg Castle

Frans Huys after Cornelis Floris (II)
Masque with shells, 1555
paper, engraving 128 x 112 mm
Amsterdam, Rijksprentenkabinet, inv./ RP-P-OB-6135


1 Lecture by Thomas Fusenig at the HNA/CODART conference 13-16 March 2002 in Antwerp, see and (consulted 4 May 2014).

2 See (consulted 6 June 2014).

3 Friis 1872-1878.

4 Bering Liisberg 1914.

5 Wanscher 1930. In the exhibition catalogue Christian 4. og Rosenborg 1606-2006, Peter Kristiansen gives an up-to-date and well-illustrated survey of the history of the pleasure house (Kristiansen 2006).

6 Gerson 1942/1983, pp. 453-454, see also § 2.2.

7 Wadum 1987A; Wadum 1988; Wadum 1998A.

8 Wadum 1991, with more illlustrations. The 66 grotesque masks are very ingenious compositions of faces formed by floral and animal elements as well as satyrs. From Huys’ series of 18 prints as many as 56 masks were composed. A few other models of unknown origin were added, e.g. one fantasy-face wearing glasses and comparable to a mask on the pulpit (1643) in the parish church of Sønder Bjærge (Danmarks Kirker V: Sorø Amt, Copenhagen 1938, pp. 914-922).

9 Honnens de Lichtenberg 1989.

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