Christen Købke (Danish, 1810–1848)
Oil on canvas
21 1/8 x 18 1/4 in. (53.7 x 46.4 cm)
Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1990 (1990.233)
Købke probably painted this work in 1838, not long before he left his native Copenhagen for a two-year stay in Italy. It is one of the most striking and personal of the artist's portraits, remarkable for both its psychological intensity and its sharply observed realism. Købke added a special clarity to the naturalism he had learned from his teacher, Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783–1853), the father of nineteenth-century Danish painting. The result was a sweet and pure realism, the visual equivalent of the painting of Caspar David Friedrich (who also studied at the Copenhagen Academy), but without the weighty symbolism.
Købke was well known to senior members of the Copenhagen school, Eckersberg and Bertel Thorvaldsen, and friendly with his contemporaries Christian Albrecht Jensen, Constantin Hansen, and Wilhelm Bendz, but the superiority of his work was not recognized during his lifetime. Today he is regarded as the greatest painter of the Danish Golden Age—the first half of the nineteenth century—which is also known as the Age of Købke.