The Harbor of Copenhagen Seen from the Esplanade, between Langelinie and Toldboden, 1809
Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (Danish, 1783–1853)
Graphite, brush and gray ink, gray washes; 13 1/4 x 18 1/4 in. (33.7 × 46.2 cm)
Signed and dated at lower right in pen and black ink: Eckersberg. 1809
Rogers Fund, 2007 (2007.256)
This early drawing by the "father of Danish painting" prefigures in many ways the interests that were to occupy Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg in his maturity: landscape and topography, marine painting, perspectival drawing (an obsession of his, here noticeable in the exact depiction of the slightly varying positions of the cannons), the almost mathematical principles underlying his masterful compositions, and a pure and elegant drawing style akin to that of his future teacher, Jacques-Louis David. In an almost inconspicuous way, it is also a depiction of the so-called Gunboat War (1807–14), a naval conflict between Denmark and Norway on one side and the British empire on the other. The cannons in the middle ground and the British ships in the distance, drawn with an admirable attention to detail, undoubtedly refer to this important moment in Danish history. The drawing, which is fully signed and dated, must have been conceived as an independent work. A preparatory drawing for the left portion of the composition, also dated 1809 and in the same technique but more loosely drawn, is in the Bymuseum, Copenhagen. On the verso of the Metropolitan's sheet is a sketch in graphite of a standing man.