Photo: © Lærke Posselt

Prince Henrik – A Passionate Collector

Enchanting masks, magical fertility figures and strange symbols. Prince Henrik was a passionate collector, who during his life created a fantastic collection of Asian jades and African figures of carved wood. The sale of his extensive collection will now commence with a Live Auction.

Auction: 27-29 August 3pm in Bredgade 33 in Copenhagen

Preview: 16-25 August at the same address – 3-7pm on the opening day and noon to 5pm on all other days. View the list of "gallery talks" about Prince Henrik (in Danish).

A Collection from an Adventurous Life

6,000 objects collected over the course of 80 years. There is no doubt that it will be a grand event when we this August begin selling the largest collection that we have ever had up for auction. The worldly Prince Henrik (1934-2018) created this incredible collection which carries with it the story of his equally adventurous life. He was born into a French noble family, grew up in Vietnam and married the Danish successor to the throne in 1967. Throughout his life, he travelled extensively and enjoyed broadening his horizons. The collection is proof of his great interest in the arts and cultural life of Asia and Africa and he has himself expressed the following about his reasons for creating the collection:

“There are numerous ways to get closer to people from other countries. It can be through words, emotions, physical contact, daily rituals, studies, reading and even photography. But you can also meet foreign people and get to know them through their art (…). I am the kind of person who is overwhelmed by foreign impulses and embrace them with joy and pleasure. For me, these impulses reflect the character and dynamics of a people or an entire civilization.”

Prince Henrik

Guided by His Heart

In the residences of the Danish Royal House at Fredensborg Palace, Amalienborg and Château de Cayx in France, Prince Henrik used several halls to store and display his collection. Floors, walls and tables were densely populated by pouting masks, voodoo figures and the most beautiful jade art. Here, Prince Henrik had the peace and quiet to immerse himself in academic literature about different cultures and enjoy the sight of his rapidly increasing collection. It was also here that he had an array of polishing equipment to care for each and every one of the objects.

The versatility of the collection reflects that Prince Henrik let himself be guided by his heart in choosing the objects. For him, it was not important whether a mask or figure had great material value or belonged to a particular periodic style. He was seduced by the craftsmanship, the beauty, the symbols and the religious stories. The objects of the collection come in all shapes, sizes and expressions, and the broad scope of the collection is proof of a true collector’s tireless efforts.

Prince Henrik's collection

Asian Jades

Bredgade 33, Copenhagen

Connection to Asia

Prince Henrik was born near Bordeaux in the suburb of Talence. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Hanoi in Vietnam. Here his father, Count André de Laborde de Monpezat, ran several family-owned industrial enterprises. Due to the outbreak of World War II, the family had to move back to France in 1939, but Prince Henrik returned in 1950 and graduated from the French lycée (upper secondary school) in Hanoi.

When it comes to the collection's Asian jades, Prince Henrik was introduced to these art objects very early in his life. In Asia, jade has for centuries been used for the production of art objects. The stone comes in many shades – from white and grey to brownish and deep green. Jade goes under the poetic name of ”The Stone of Heaven" since it, due to its beauty, has been associated with the spiritual world. In Hanoi, the seed of Prince Henrik's life as a collector was planted:

I have collected jade all my life. As a child growing up in Hanoi, in what was formerly known as Indo-China, I was given my first piece of jade by my parents. Ever since jade has been one of my great passions, and for me, the material symbolises my connection to Asian culture.”

Prince Henrik

Under African Skies

The young nobleman returned to France after his years at the lycée in Hanoi and began studying law and political science at the Sorbonne in Paris. Back in the 1950s, the interest of the European cultural scene once more turned to the traditional arts and crafts of the colonies. It was also during these years that Prince Henrik, through a fellow student from the Ivory Coast, discovered what would become his lifelong fascination with African figures and masks of carved wood. Later in the 1980s, he bought some of his first figures from the Danish artist Robert Jacobsen's collection.

Over the years, Prince Henrik repeatedly visited Africa as an ambassador for the Red Cross and other charitable purposes. Here, the Prince experienced the continent's cultural riches and rituals first-hand, and when he could get away from his official duties, he sought out local flea markets and merchants to buy new objects for his collection.

Prince Henrik's collection


Bredgade 33, Copenhagen

Museum Exhibitions with Prince Henrik's Collection

Gradually, the collection grew to enormous dimensions and parts of it were shown to the public while the Prince was still alive. In 2009, the African objects were exhibited at Gammel Holtegaard and Silkeborg Art Museum. A beautifully illustrated catalogue entitled "To Gods, Spirits and Ancestors. Art from Africa in HRH The Prince's Private Collection” was printed for the exhibition. In 2017, Koldinghus arranged a magnificent exhibition with the collection’s Asian jade art under the title "Stone of Heaven. HRH Prince Henrik's Collection of Oriental Jade Art”.

The Decision to Sell the Collection at Auction

In accordance with Prince Henrik's statements in his will, the Danish Royal House has decided that the collection should be sold at auction. The heirs have selected a number of objects that they want to keep, and they have decided that a number of jades and African objects will remain on display at the Royal Family’s Château de Cayx in France. Part of the proceeds from the auction will go to the two royal foundations, the Crown Prince Couple's Foundation and the Nikolai & Felix Foundation.

Own A Piece of the Danish Royal House's History

The estimates on the objects range from DKK 2,000 to 75,000. You can already bid on the auction lots now at a “pre-auction” at bruun-rasmussen.dk. The highest online bids from the pre-auction will be the starting bids at the final Live Auction, which will take place at Bredgade 33 in Copenhagen. The remaining part of the collection will subsequently be sold at Online Auctions over the next six months.

Join us on this fantastic journey to Asia and Africa as seen through the eyes of Prince Henrik!

For further information, please contact:

Alexa Bruun Rasmussen: +45 6035 1091 (cell phone) · alexa@bruun-rasmussen.dk

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