New acquisitions: two Italian motifs

By on July 21, 2017
Anna Danielsson/Nationalmuseum

National Museum has acquired two Italian motifs of Danish gold age artists. Loggia from Procida by Martinus Rørbye from 1835 and Minerva’s temple at the Nervas Forum by Constantin Hansen from around 1840. Each of them represents the best of what Northern European artists performed during their travels south. In addition, they are the rare expression of the strong experiences that the meeting with the South’s atmosphere and construction could imply on a more personal level.

Rørbye and Hansen belong both to the most prominent artists in the early 18th century Danish art life, that is, during the period known as the golden age, ranging from about 1810 to the 1860s. During this half-century, great art was created, and virtually everywhere in culture and science, creativity was sprouting even though the conditions were really the worst imaginable. The economy was unclear and Copenhagen was ruined after the city was bombed by the British Navy. Thus, from the armod, an art that turned water into wine rose by describing little strange everyday life and surroundings with a lust and depth that resulted in immortal images. The reason for this art was laid by Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg and his students, to which Martinus Rørbye and Constantin Hansen heard.

The two newly acquired oil studies are exemplary examples of how the artist sees the potential of it seemingly unimportant by highlighting certain characteristics of the subject. In Martinus Rørbye’s case, it is a simple loggia on the island of Procida, outside of Naples. Three years earlier, 1832, Norfolk Thomas Fearnley had visited the same loggia and painted it from virtually the same point. Since the two artists went to Rome, Rørbye had probably seen Fearnley’s painting and felt a draw to the place. By Rørbye’s painting to judge, he was not disappointed but appeared to have been put on the spot as soon as possible in a literally purely lyric state. The painting acquired by Nationalmuseum is just the one painted on the spot, the first of three versions. The ongoing publication of Rørbye’s diary also shows that the artist took this first version as a model when he worked again with the motif in Italy. The treatment of light and shadows and the mediation of the site’s special character makes the study one of the golden age’s more lyrical examples of how the artist’s eyesight could be transformed into image.

Constantin Hansen traveled to Italy late 1835. Even before departure, his stated ambition was to engage in architecture motifs and decorative painting. Prior to switching to the artist’s career, he had begun architectural studies in Copenhagen. During the first time in Rome, he complained in letters that the great work he did to exhibit took all his time. He would rather devote himself to what attracted him on a more personal level. From his about ten years in Rome there are a number of studies that reflect precisely this, which convey the artist’s strong experiences of places and construction. The study of Minerva’s temple is a true demonstration of this ability to translate its impressions in a short time. The sensible experience of the facade and the painting itself seems impossible to distinguish. Constantin Hansen has painted in a way that may best be described as a declaration of love. The inspired character of painting is certainly an important explanation that the painting was once owned by the artist Janus La Cour, who in the 1860s helped to change Danish art by allowing the painting itself and the brush movement to play a more prominent role in the image creation.

The acquisition has been made possible through donations from the Wiros Fund. The National Museum has no own means of acquiring arts and crafts for but collections enriched by gifts and private foundation and funds.

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