A Neoclassical Masterpiece

It is our pleasure to announce that the Royal Danish Collection has become one Jens Juel painting richer. The portrait represents Crown Princess Marie and her daughter, Princess Caroline, and was painted in around 1800. The painting has been passed down through a cadet branch of the royal family for 200 years, but will now enter the company of ten other works by Juel at Rosenborg. The portrait can be seen from Sunday 27 December.

Jens Juel (1745-1802) was the royal family’s, the nobility’s and the affluent bourgeoisie’s feted portrait painter, and almost all influential Danish people of the period were painted by him. In 1780 Juel became the court portrait painter, and most of the members of the royal family were portrayed by the artist several times. Crown Princess Marie had been portrayed in a more than two-metre high painting eight years earlier, while Juel had already painted her husband, the future Frederik VI, shortly before his confirmation in 1783.

In Juel’s paintings grace is united with realistic depictions. The representation of the country’s Crown Princess walking on her flat feet in a garden without status symbols would have been unthinkable a few decades earlier. With the French Revolution came a liberation of the arts, which Juel had witnessed during his many years of travelling abroad, and he was therefore able to live up to the, for the time, modern demands and expectations of art which were also emerging in Denmark.

The portrait is also of art historical interest because it depicts the private sphere and is a representation of mother and child strolling “spontaneously”. It was precisely around the turn of the century that Juel painted many mothers with children, and quite in keeping with the spirit of the age children were allowed to express themselves, and family bonds were expressed in a different way than before.

The painting isn’t signed or dated, but two contemporary sources exist. In the last years of Juel’s life the future Christian VIII, who was very interested in cultural history, regularly visited Juel’s atelier in order to keep up to speed with which paintings the artist was working on. Following an atelier visit on 25 January 1800, the future king wrote to his father, “Papa, my siblings and I have visited Juul to see a painting of the Crown Princess and Caroline”.

C. Zeuthen represented Frederik VI’s study and bedroom in a watercolour in 1840 following the king’s death. In the watercolour one can see the painting hanging on the wall behind the king’s bed. On the left of the picture the king’s white writing desk can be seen. Today it is exhibited at Rosenborg, and will now be able to nod to the painting, just as it could 150 years ago.

The painting has been purchased by Rosenborg with support from Augustinus Fonden, Ny Carlsbergfondet, and the Danish Ministry of Culture.

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