Italian Piazzas, Historical Naval Battles and Danish Landscapes

We unveil the Danish Golden Age's favourite genres with a number of magnificent works by the period’s leading artists, including Martinus Rørbye, C.W. Eckersberg and J.Th. Lundbye from a significant Danish private collection.

Artworks from the Danish Golden Age are lining up at this year's final Live Auction, and nine of them come from the same prominent art collection. With this group of paintings, we see the painters' most beloved genres represented – scenes from Italy, history painting and depictions of the Danish landscape.

An Italian Scene

The highlight at this auction is Martinus Rørbye's motif from the piazza in Amalfi by the Gulf of Salerno southeast of Naples. The painting is a tour de force in light, colours, architecture and daily life. Here we meet a large gathering of the inhabitants of the picturesque town who have come to sell all kinds of fruit at the market, while others lie relaxing amongst the crowd or have conversations with each other. It is a depiction of colourful daily life that you don’t often get the chance to see! However, this was before the time of realism, and the painters of the Danish Golden Age had a habit for romanticizing their renditions of reality, people and their activities under the setting sun of southern Europe. It is no secret that Italy as the centre of art was the starting point for many of the Danish painters' Grand Tours. This work originates from the adventurous Rørbye's second trip to Italy in the years 1839-41, which also functioned as the honeymoon for the painter and his wife Rose. In his diaries, he describes in detail the artistic process in relation to the creation of this painting, including the challenges of getting the figures to fit into the complex composition, which required great pictorial insight and ingenuity.

I worked at home until noon, my town square is costing me quite a lot of inconvenience with the many small figures (…) Hard at work on painting just like yesterday, green items in the foreground are giving me more than enough to do both in terms of painting and composition. I therefore often rely upon Rose for advice, and I have to my great joy both had good use and pleasure of this, since she undoubtedly is obtaining a stronger grasp of art.”

Martinus Rørbye, travel journal 12 November 1839 and 30 January 1840

The private collection also includes other Italian motifs, such as Rørbye's "Piazza Marina i Palermo" and his colleague Wilhelm Marstrand's entertaining work "En improvisator" from an osteria.

Picturesque Interpretation of History

Another of the Danish Golden Age's favourite genres was history painting, which at art academies around Europe was still considered worthy material to mine for motifs. The Danish Golden Age painters did break, to some extent, with the tradition by moving out into the world and sitting down in front of the motif to let what they saw determine the content of the work rather than only looking back in time in their search for motifs. In a work from the same Danish collection and made in 1834-35 by C.W. Eckersberg, he deals with a historical event in his depiction of the naval battle at Køge Bay in 1677, which was the culmination of a series of battles during the Scanian War between Denmark and Sweden. In the motif, women and children say goodbye on the beach to men jumping in boats to join the battle that would end in a Danish victory.

C.W. Eckersberg: The Battle of Køge Bay on 1 July 1677, 1834-1835. Oil on canvas. 80 x 113 cm. Estimate: DKK 1.5-2.5 million.

The Beautiful Danish Landscape

The Danish landscape was depicted to a great extent by the Danish Golden Age painters, and at this auction, J.TH. Lundbye heads up this genre with the work "Blegeplads ved herregården Vognserup" (The bleaching ground at Vognserup Manor) from 1845. Here we have the essence of a Danish summer mood with blue skies, light cumulus clouds, swaying green trees and a green grass meadow. Every single flower and grazing cow are meticulously portrayed by the artist, who is known for having studied plants and animals thoroughly during his artistic career. In the middle ground of the painting, a woman is in the process of bleaching white sheets, which she has spread out on the meadow for this purpose. Lundbye spent several summers in the area around Vognserup Manor near Holbæk, where he found some of his most famous motifs.

Johan Thomas Lundbye: "The bleaching ground at Vognserup Manor", 1845. Oil on canvas. 48 x 64 cm. Estimate: DKK 800,000-1,000,000.

The work on offer can be seen as pure romantic nationalism. It was thought that lush, Danish landscapes like this could contribute to the rebuilding of a national identity at a time when the country had suffered major setbacks such as the British bombardment of Copenhagen, the loss of the navy, the state bankruptcy and the ceding of Norway to Sweden. From the mentioned art collection, we also find a motif by Rørbye taken from the slightly hilly terrain with the beautiful luminous meadows at Vester Egede between Næstved and Faxe, where he stayed in 1832.

The Study of the Naked Female Body

We thus get our own Grand Tour of the Danish Golden Age's favourite genres at this auction with motifs found in Italy, history and the Danish landscape. The artists of the period also found time to depict nudes on the canvas, and from another Danish collection comes such a nude by one of the lesser-known names of the time, Eckersberg's student Hans Jørgen Hammer. His sensual rendition of a woman in the process of putting on her slippers is known from Eckersberg’s similar work located at the Glyptotek. In 1848, a woman named Madam Hack sat as model at Eckersberg's summer course, which Hammer participated in and skilfully recorded this motif.

Hans Jørgen Hammer: A femalen nude putting on her slippers. 1843. Oil on canvas. 126 x 92 cm. Estimate: DKK 200,000-300,000.
Live Auction

Fine Art

Tuesday 30 November at 4 pm

For further information, please contact:

Julie  Arendse Voss Portrait

Julie Arendse Voss

Julie Arendse Voss

Head of department / Havnen
Birte  Stokholm Portrait

Birte Stokholm

Birte Stokholm

Specialist / Havnen
Søren  Kjerk Holmstrup Portrait

Søren Kjerk Holmstrup

Søren Kjerk Holmstrup

Specialist / Havnen