Jens Juel

The painter Jens Juel (1745-1802) represents more or less the pinnacle of Danish portraiture in the 1700s, and was the Royal Family’s, the nobility’s, and the affluent bourgeoisie’s fêted portrait painter.

After having been educated at the Royal Danish Academy of Art, Juel went in 1772 on an eight year long journey abroad. He spent four years in Rome, and thereafter spent time in Paris and Geneva. Shorty after his return to Copenhagen Juel was appointed court portrait painter, and in 1786 he was appointed a professor at the academy, which he became the director of in 1795.

Juel was the first to cultivate landscape in Danish art, and painted fine and characterful landscapes. But it was as a painter of portraits that he produced his finest work, and in them Juel unites elegant composition and assured draughtsmanship with an eye for materials and colour.

Juel brought home with him the latest artistic currents of the age and transformed them on Danish soil. Without giving up the traditions of court portraiture, Juel was able to depict his subjects closer to nature. This was particularly expressed in his depictions of children; in step with the ideals of the time, and the social thinker Jean Jacques Rousseau’s ideas about freer possibilities for self-expression, they were depicted with a previously unseen naturalness. The children no longer seemed like small adults, but like children.

Another reason for Juel’s popularity was presumably that he depicted his subjects in flattering ways. The great demand meant that Juel had to employ several assistants to help him, and today we do not know to what degree they helped Juel and which parts of the process they were responsible for.

The Royal Family were so enamoured of Juel that he immortalised three generations of them. At Rosenborg you can today see nine royal portraits, of among others Christian VII, Caroline Mathilde, and Louise Augusta, all painted by Juel.

For more information on royal fine art, please visit the website of the Danish monarchy