The Music and Light of Poul Henningsen

At this autumn's Live Auction, we pay tribute to one of the biggest names in Danish cultural history. Poul Henningsen, also known as PH, has secured a place in the memory of most Danes – both as a designer, a scathing social critic and an author of revue songs. We set the scene with a rare grand piano from 1937 and several of his iconic lamps.

Theories of Light and Cultural Criticism

When this autumn's Live Design Auction takes place in Copenhagen on Thursday 30 September, we place the spotlight on the famous Dane, Poul Henningsen. In 1919, he established his own design studio, and like many other Danish architects, PH welcomed the new trends from the rest of Europe. He supported the functionalist ideas such as "Form Follows Function" and "Less is More", which saw the light of day after the First World War. The war experience manifested itself among European architects as a desire to reform society. In the early 1920s, PH began the landmark collaboration with the lamp company Louis Poulsen, which sparked the creation of the iconic glare-free lamp. In 1925, the PH lamp won a gold medal at the World's Fair in Paris, and this became the starting point for PH's fame and led to the development of countless lamps constructed around the same principle of light. In addition to his work as a designer, PH was the editor of the ‘cultural radical’ magazine "Kritisk-Revy", and as a revue writer he developed a sharp pen about the current issues in society. He often stood in opposition to the elite. This can be seen with the poem "They tie us down hand and mouth", which he wrote for playwright Kjeld Abell's revue "Dyveke" in 1940. In the poem, the shots were directed at the German censorship during the occupation, which led to PH being blacklisted by the Nazis.

Photograph of the “Master of Light” Poul Henningsen from approx. 1950.
Poul Henningsen: "PH-bow Grand Piano". Rare grand piano. Nutwood, browned brass and black lacquered wood. Designed 1937. Manufactured by Andreas Christensen. Estimate: DKK 200,000-250,000.

Jazz All Around

PH had a great love of music in several ways, and in the 1930s he created a series of grand pianos for the dance floors of "swanky" places at the time, including The Glass Hall Theatre and Scala in Copenhagen. A common trait of these grand pianos was that they broke with the conventions of what such an instrument should look like. The Plexiglas variant from 1932 is the most famous, but at this auction, we present the much rarer "PH-bow Grand Piano" that PH designed in 1937. Only 7-8 examples were made in the original round of production, and as far as we know, none of these initial models have previously been sold at auction. The grand piano is made in nutwood, and the curved legs with brass finishes and the flap, which looks like four bows of perforated wood, attracted a good deal of attention when the grand piano was announced in the newspaper by the piano manufacturer Andreas Christensen.

The Master of Light

At this auction, we also present several of the light maker's early lamps – all created as variations of the award-winning lamp from 1925 with the characteristic glare-free shades. Among the highlights is the "Septima". The lamp’s frame has a distinctive construction with seven shades of clear and frosted glass in fields strategically placed according to the principle of avoiding any direct glare from the light. It was first exhibited in 1928 at the Danish Museum of Art & Design in a prototype version. PH subsequently drew on the ideas from the model, which today stands as the ultimate trophy for all PH collectors. The lamp at the auction was made in the 1930s by PH’s regular collaborator Louis Poulsen. Equally sought after by collectors around the world is the auction's adjustable floor lamp, which belongs among PH's early lamps and already saw the light of day in 1927.

Poul Henningsen: "PH-5/3". Rare floor lamp with adjustable height. Estimate: DKK 200,000-250,000.
Poul Henningsen: "PH-Septima-5". Pendant with seven shades of clear glass, partly frosted fields. Estimate: DKK 100,000-125,000.

Live Auction

Design and decorative art

Thursday 30 September at 4 pm

For further information, please contact:

Peter Kjelgaard: +45 8818 1191 ·

Amalie Hansen: +45 8818 1194 ·

Andreas Krabbe: +45 8818 1193 ·

Peter Beck (Aarhus): +45 8818 1186 ·

Peter Tholstrup (Aarhus): +45 8818 1195 ·