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Two Golden Ages
Masterpieces of Dutch and Danish Painting
The exhibition at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Article added on September 15, 2001
The exhibition Two Golden Ages at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (previously at the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen) covers the Golden Age of Dutch painting in the 17th century as wells as the Golden Age of Danish painting in the first half of the 19th century.
The extensive research carried out by the exhibition's curator, Lene Bogh Ronberg, has brought to light the many ways in which Danish artists were influenced by Dutch and Flemish masters.

One of the most important influence came through the important collections of Dutch art in Copenhagen. The Royal Collection of Painting with its 1000 selected works accessible in Christiansborg Palace from 1827 onwards was the most powerful source of inspiration. Over half of these were by Dutch and Flemish masters. Most of them were brought to Denmark by the royal family's art dealer Gerhard Morell from 1755 to 1765. 

Danish artist Johan Christian Dahl (1788-1857) painted almost literal imitations of landscapes by Jacob van Ruisdael (1628/29-82) and Allart van Everdingen (1621-75). Christian Købke (1810-48) interpreted works by Jan van Goyen (1596-1656). The portrait of Abraham Casteleyn and his wife by Jan de Bray (1627-97) inspired the family portraits by Wilhelm Bendz (1804-32). The list of Danish painters influenced by Dutch and Flemish artists is long and includes genre as well as portraiture.

An other source of inspiration was the Moltke collection, Den Moltkeske Malerisamling, which was built up in the middle of the 18th century by the connoisseur and royal counselor Count Adam Gottlob Moltke. It counted some 150 paintings, most of them were Dutch and of the highest quality.

Danish artists were also inspired by Dutch prints brought back from their travels to Holland and Germany or they purchased them at home. The portrait The engraver C.E. Sonne by Ditlev Blunck (1798-1854) of 1826 is a detail from Seated girl in peasant costume by Gerard ter Borch 1617-81) of about 1650.
Danish artists who went on their Grand Tour to Italy had the opportunity to study Dutch paintings in the German royal and princely collections in Hamburg, Berlin and Dresden. Dutch artists like Johan Thomas Lundbye (1818-48) and Wilhelm Marstrand (1810-73) even made a detour to the Netherlands to visit collections of Dutch art such as the Mauritshuis and the Rijksmuseum.
The classical theory of art, which had mostly centered on classical Greek and Italian art, had culminated in the 17th century. Subjects taken from history, the Bible and mythology dominated, whereas everyday realism as in Dutch painting was disregarded. During the 18th century, the Dutch masters had gradually been rediscovered in Germany, France and Britain. The simplicity of their subjects became associated with honesty and sensitivity and contrasted with the artistocratic rococo art which became disregarded as frivolous.
In 17th century Holland, there were various art schools and centers whereas in Denmark in the period of 1800 to 1850 Copenhagen was the only art center. All young artists were trained at the city's Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art, established in 1754.
Danish Golden Age art places itself between the representation of the ideal and reality, between Neo-Classicism, realism and naturalism. The 75 paintings of the exhibition Two Golden Ages concentrates on the Dutch influence on Danish painting in the first half of the 19th century.
This article is largely based on Lene Bogh Ronberg's introduction to the exhibition catalogue which includes three essays: "The Dutch Dimension in Danish Golden Age Landscape Painting" by Kasper Monrad; "Bourgois Home Life in the Two Golden Ages - influences and correspondences" by Lene Bogh Ronberg; "The Garments of Body and Soul. On <the interesting>" by Ragni Linnet.

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam: Two Golden Ages. Masterpieces of Dutch and Danish Painting. Exhibition until September 16, 2001.

Catalogue: Two Golden Ages. Masterpieces of Dutch and Danish Painting. Paperback, Waanders, 1999, 184 pages. Order the catalogue book from and

Two Golden Ages. Masterpieces of Dutch and Danish Painting
. Paperback, Waanders, 1999, 184 pages. Order the catalogue book from and

Jan de Bray: The Haarlem Printer Abraham Casteleyn and his Wife, Margarieta van Bancken, 1663. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Photo: Exhibition catalogue Two Golden Ages. This is an early example of the portrait genre. During the period 1650-90, Jan de Bray painted a wide section of the Dutch bourgeoisie. The motif of the husband interrupted at his work was fashionable in Holland in the 17th century.  Wilhelm Bendz (1804-32) probably did not know this particular picture by de Bray, but Dutch prints with the similar motifs might have inspired him to paint The Waagepetersen Family in 1830. In the exhibition and in the catalogue, the two paintings are presented side by side.

Johan Thomas Lundbye: A Landscape in Cloudy Weather. Evening, 1840. Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen. Photo: Exhibition catalogue Two Golden Ages. Lundbye's objective was to paint his beloved Denmark. In this painting, he took the individualized oak tree's extended branches and the lowering clouds from Ruisdael's Oak Trees by a Pond, 1649. The other influence, according to the catalogue, was Lundbye's Danish colleague Dankvart Dreyer with his View of Silkeborg. Morning Light, 1838. In the exhibition and in the catalogue, the three paintings are presented side by side.

Arie Wallert, ed.: Still Lifes. Techniques and Styles: An Examination of Paintings from the Rijksmuseum. Paperback, University of Washington Press, 2000, 112 p. ISBN: 9040093679. Get it from

Henk van Os, et al.: Netherlandish Art in the Rijksmuseum. Hardcover, Yale University Press, October 2000, 280 p. ISBN: 0300087462. Get it from or
Abraham L. Den Blaauwen: Meissen Porcelain in the Rijksmuseum. Hardcover, Waanders Pub, 2001, 512 p. ISBN: 9040094969. Get it from