Odin and Pallas Athene in Copenhagen

“Stormbroen” with reliefs of Odin and Pallas Athena, Copenhagen, 1902, source.

The highly influential architect Martin Nyrop (1849-1921) completed a renovation project of Copenhagen’s “Stormbroen” in 1918. However, already sixteen years later he had come up with a new design for the bridge that was “prototyped” but never finished. This design included two relief sculptures, one depicting the Norse god Odin, the other Pallas Athena, juxtaposing the Nordic and the Classical in a very prominent public space that is highly revealing of the cultural politics of late 19th-century Denmark (and that we discuss in this little book). The reliefs were conceived in collaboration with the artist Niels Skovgaard (1858-1938). Opponents of the plan argued that the relief negatively affected the view towards Thorvaldsens Museum. Fortunately, Nyrop’s design survives in a photograph now in the Copenhagen City Archives and was discussed in Illustreret Tidende, 23 February 1902. This includes a wonderful charaterisation of Nyrop: “His head is teeming with ideas, some of which are splendid, others a little too bizarre” (“Ideerne myldrer ud af hans Hjærne, mange fortræffelige, enkelte lidt for bizarre.”)

Frederik Poulsen on English Aristocrats

Frederik Poulsen visited numerous English manor houses while working on his Greek and Roman Portraits in English Country Houses (1929) and scouting works to purchase for the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. He describes these visits in a more informal fashion in several of his works, including in a brief account entitled “Engelske Aristokrater” (English Aristocrats), published in Vi vandrer: Rejseskildringer og skitser (1926).

The Pantheon of Ince Blundell Hall, one of the manor houses visited by Poulsen.

He had scathing things to say about the state of the English aristocracy, whose interests he claimed were limited to hunting, sports and politics. In one passage (p. 47, in my translation below), he employs classical topoi of decline and contemporary European idealisations of the Roman aristocracy. While “small garden temple” hardly fits the Ince Blundell pantheon, the description of a partly deconstructed collection resonates with other accounts of its state in the early 20th century.

Unlike when I was on a summer tour of manor houses on Funen, where the owners both knew and loved their possessions and always showed me their interiors, paintings and porcelain…the English lords completely lacked insight into the artworks of their palaces. At a palace in western England, masterpieces of old Flemish and Italian art were hung alongside fakes (“Fuskerarbejder”) from the 19th century, and inside a small garden temple, development had completely ceased in 1837, the year when the former owner died. The niches stood empty, while on the floor stood statues and busts crammed together with beams and tubs and boxes that were yet to be unpacked. In one box I glimpsed a cast of the Parthenon frieze beneath the decaying, century-old straw. Leaves and earth had flown in and covered artworks whose market value was at least 1 million Danish Kroner. In here I felt the contrast between the ruling classes of ancient Rome and contemporary England that otherwise display so many similarities. A Caesar and a Cicero went into politics, ennobled by the best culture of the time and as connaisseurs of science, poetry and culture. They were aristocrats of the mind (“Aandsaristokrater”), whose conversations were about studies and books. But the English lords were not friends of the Muses. Even when they collected, their taste was poor, and only chance encounters and bulk-buys (in Danish, this is an alliteration: “Slumpetræf og Storkøb”) led precious works to their palaces.

The Ephesian Artemis in early 19th-c. Denmark

“Philosophien” (1800), by Nicolai Abildgaard, SMK.

I previously noted the tomb of P.C. Abildgaard that was erected in 1801 in Copenhagen’s Assistens Kirkegård. A prominent relief on this tomb depicts the Ephesian Artemis, looking somewhat out of place in a Danish cemetery.

Yet the motif was certainly chosen for this context because of the powerful meaning it had acquired since the 17th century as a symbol of rational thought and natural science. Nicolai Abildgaard, P.C.’s brother who designed his tomb, also showcased the Ephesian Artemis in his allegorical painting of “Philosophy” (1800), seen above.

Right around the same time, the Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen (1770-1844) produced a version of the same motif with Apollo unveiling a statue of the Ephesian Artemis for the frontispiece of Alexander von Humboldt’s Ideen zu einer Geographie der Pflanzen nebst ein Naturgemälde der Tropenlander (first published in French in 1805), one of the outcomes of his Latin American expedition. As expressed by Alexander von Humboldt in a letter to Goethe, the image of Apollo and the Ephesian Artemis “refers to the synthesis of Poetry, Philosophy and Natural sciences” (cited from Tevebring 2012, 153).

Frontispiece to Alexander von Humboldt’s Ideen zu einer Geographie der Pflanzen nebst ein Naturgemälde der Tropenlander (1807), based on a Thorvaldsen drawing and dedicated to Goethe.

Some reflections on the Abildgaard tombs in Assistens Kirkegård and their iconography can be found in Midt i verden i 250 år – Assistens 1760-2010 (Copenhagen 2010), pp. 56-58. On Bertel Thorvaldsen, Alexander von Humboldt and the motif of Apollo and the Ephesian Artemis, see Frederika Tevebring, “Unveiling the Goddess. Artemis of Ephesus as a Symbol of Nature at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century”, Lychnos 2012, 153-166. See also Marjatta Nielsen’s “Diana Efesis Multimammia: The Metamorphoses of a Pagan Goddess from the Renaissance to the Age of Neo-Classicism”, in T. Fischer-Hansen and B. Poulsen (eds.) From Artemis to Diana: The Goddess of Man and Beast (Copenhagen 2009), pp. 455-496.

The Classical Imagination of a Small Town: Aarhus 1909

I have been working on the geographies of classicism – especially the receptions of classical heritage in the context of Aarhus, a provincial, small Danish town that saw its fortune grow considerably from the late 19th century onwards. Around the turn of the century, the city’s architects occasionally (and sometimes quite fleetingly) looked back to classical paradigms to manifest its new identity and status as an industrial and cultural powerhouse worthy of the title of “capital of Jutland”.

The “Nordre Kirkegård Mausoleum” is one (largely forgotten) manifestation of this process, but I have also been looking to other, more well-known cases. Among these, the National Exhibition (“Landsudstillingen“) in 1909 is very important, even if its ephemeral nature also means that it takes some effort to imagine the impact that it once had.

The 1909 National Exhibition opened on 18 May. When it closed again on 3 October, it had been visited by 667.000 people, close to a third of the total Danish population of the time. Like many other exhibitions of this kind, it was designed to merge different points in time: the past (through the display of a prehistoric stone dolmen and monuments to civic heritage, such as “Borgmestergården“, the 16th century mayor’s mansion that later became the first house in the Old Town Museum), the present (through the display of contemporary goods – beer! sausages! – and carefully curated views of the city’s chimneys) and the future (through the demonstration of new technologies – electricity! airplanes! – and dreams of local and national grandeur).

Which specific elements from classical antiquity did the architects of the National Exhibition choose? The first image shows the “Tuborg Triumphal Arch” (advertising Tuborg beer). In the second, we see the temple-like main hall (viewed through the entrance gates), its pediment decorated with a painting by Valdemar Andersen that shows men of crafts and industry. The third shows the “Carlsberg Column” (another beer advertisement!) and a reflection pool. All of these monuments were constructed on a wooden frame and taken down after the exhibition ended. Images are taken from Aarhusbilleder.dk.

This was, of course, by no means an innocent moment in Aarhus’ (or Danish) history. The most popular parts of the National Exhibition focused on ethnography and demonstrate the contemporary colonial imagination in full effect. One part focused on the life of Greenland’s indigenous population (and the history of Danish exploration in the Arctic). Another was an “Abyssinian village”, populated by 80 Ethiopians that had been transported to Aarhus from a Hamburg zoo (Tierpark Hagenbeck, still operating today).

Even if is written primarily from the perspective of local history, Johan Bender has written a nice and very beautifully illustrated book about the National Exhibition: Hurra for Århus: Landsudstillingen 1909 – vejene til og sporene fra (Aarhus 2008). Specifically on classical architecture in the National Exhibition, there are a few remarks in the introduction to Vinnie Nørskov (ed.), Antikken i Århus (Aarhus 2008), pp. 19-21.

“The gate which Iskander built will be torn open”: Classical Antiquity and Heavy Metal

The other course I’m (co-)teaching this semester is very loosely based on our Classical Heritage and European Identities volume and aims to put a critical, contemporary perspective on the uses of classical heritage and to place them within the wider “democratic turn” in reception studies.

Yesterday we had some fun in the (virtual) classroom with Christian (Djurslev) joining us to talk about “Mediterranean Metal”, receptions of classical heritage in heavy metal music, from Iron Maiden to A Sound of Thunder. It was an excellent introduction to the genre and it was fascinating (even if also fairly troubling) to look into the Christian/Western origin story of Iron Maiden’s “Alexander the Great” in the mid-1980s and the complex interplay between Egyptian, classical and Islamic heritages in Nile’s more recent “Iskander Dhul Karnon”. We even briefly touched on neo-paganism and Islamic counter-culture.

For more on all of this, Christian pointed us to this recent edited volume and his own paper in the inaugural issue of Metal Music Studies. Here are the songs that he had picked for us to discuss in class:

Iron Maiden, “Alexander the Great” (1986).
Nile, “Iskander D’hul Kharnon” (2009).
A Sound of Thunder, “Tomyris” (2018).

More Maussollomania

Sir Christopher Wren, St Paul's Cathedral, London:  longitudinal section of the Great Model
Architectural drawing of the St Paul’s Cathedral model, c. 1725 (source: Royal Academy).

I’m still digging through the layers of different Maussolleion reconstructions. Christopher Wren’s original designs for St Paul’s Cathedral (planned from 1668 onwards but not finished until 1710) included a Maussolleion-inspired lantern that is of great importance in this context. Although never realised, the designs are recorded on both paper (above) and in 3D in the “Great Model” (below). These later inspired Wren’s pupil, Nicholas Hawksmoor, for St George’s Church in Bloomsbury. See also the beautiful new book by Vaughan Hart, Christopher Wren. In Search of Eastern Antiquity (New Haven 2020), that covers the dialogue between architecture and archaeology in the time of the “Wren Office”.

Inside The Model Of St Paul's | Spitalfields Life
The “Maussolleion” lantern for St Paul’s Cathedral (source: Spitalfields Life).

Maussolleion Reconstructions: From Dinsmoor to Dali

I have been thinking a little about where Kühnel got his inspiration to use the “Maussolleion of Halikarnassos” as the model for his crematorium in Nordre Kirkegård.

The American architect William B. Dinsmoor (1886-1973) published two papers on the Maussolleion in the 1908 volume of American Journal of Archaeology, from which the above reconstruction is taken. Ultimately, I think it’s unlikely that Kühnel was up to date on such archaeological reconstructions. On the other hand, Dinsmoor’s arrangement with the equestrian statue, steps, lions and cypresses seems to have been a direct inspiration to Salvador Dali almost fifty years later.

Dali, Le mausolée d’Halicarnasse (1955)

More of Dinsmoor’s Maussolleion:

Open Access News: Ephesus and Millennium-Studien

Ephesian Embolos
Embolos, Ephesos (photo: TMK, July 2011).

The Forschungen in Ephesus volumes that publish the results of the ÖAI excavations at Ephesus are notoriously unwieldy but also uniquely valuable and important. For these reasons, it is excellent to see the news that ALL of them are now available online in open access. And unlike a lot of other e-books, they seem easy to navigate and have full-text OCR for searching.

This news follows the announcement earlier this month that the 85 and growing volumes of De Gruyter’s Millennium-Studien will also become open access over the course of the next couple of years.

Hack Kampmann’s Antiquity

The Temple of Concordia” (March 1886), Agrigento, by Hack Kampmann.

Hack Kampmann (1856-1920) is one of the most renowned Danish pre-modernist architects. He entered the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1873, and was later responsible for designing several celebrated buildings in Aarhus, including Toldkammeret (1895), the theatre (1900) and the old State Library (1902).

Southwestern corner of the Parthenon cornice (dated to 11 February 1875).

The Danish Art Library has made some fantastic scans available of some of Kampmann’s drawings, several with classical motifs, mostly from his early years at the Academy, and which I reproduce here. Not included in this archive are Kampmann’s extraordinary watercolours from Pompeii, including reconstructions of the House of Cornelius Rufus and the Stabian baths based on his visit in April 1886.

More generally, however, Kampmann’s relationship with classical antiquity was more ambivalent than predecessors such as Christian Hansen (1803-1883) and influenced by other historicists, not least Vilhelm Dahlerup (1836-1907). This is evident from a letter that Kampmann wrote from Berlin in November 1885 (cited here from Nørskov 2008, 87, in my translation):

The architecture that is now put to use throughout the civilised world is born under the bright days and warm sun of the south, and it will never become a real truth  [“rigtig Sandhed”] among us. People would never be able to understand it and relate to it only in ignorance…The earthen huts of the past were better architecture for us northerners than today’s buildings with arches and columns…

It required the nudging of Carl Jacobsen to join him and Ottilia to travel to Greece in spring 1887. Here Kampmann became part of a group of illustrious contemporaries handpicked by Jacobsen, such as the art historian Julius Lange, the archaeologist Sophus Müller, and the Egyptologist Valdemar Schmidt. They travelled from Brindisi to Corfu and then Corinth before arriving in Athens on 16 March. In a letter Kampmann describes his visit to the Athenian acropolis and is frank about his ignorance of its history (cited from Gehl & Soldbro 2015, 232, in my translation):

For me the main interest lies with the Acropolis, the old castle of Athens, with the sadly partly destroyed remains of sanctuaries from a very distant time, the history of which I know nothing about. But if this does such an impression on me, an ignorant animal, and more than anything I have previously seen, which feelings would one have when walking on such sacred places if one came more prepared and knowing about everything that has happened here through the centuries, right up until our days.

Kampmann and the others continued to Delphi and even the mountains of the Peloponnese where by happy incident he ended up recording a contemporary farmhouse at Tripi west of Sparta in some detail (Gehl & Soldbro 2015, 232-4). Although he could not wait to return to Italy, Kampmann used his experiences from Greece when he later became professor at the Academy in 1908, lecturing on the “visual effects of Greek temples.”

This drawing, dated to 1876, appears to be based on an etching by another artist.
Reconstruction of “The Temple of Poseidon“, Paestum (1913, by William Jerndorff, under the supervision of Hack Kampmann)

For more on Kampmann’s use of classical motifs and his travels in the Mediterranean, see Vinnie Nørskov, “Århus Teater: Hack Kampmann og antikken”, in id. (ed.) Antikken i Århus (2008), pp. 84-93, and Elisabeth Gehl & Marie Louise Kampmann Soldbro, Hack Kampmann. Del 1: De unge år belyst gennem tegninger, akvareller og breve (2015).