Danish art takes Netflix

From episode 1 of Alias Grace on Netflix, featuring two highlights from SMK’s public domain collection; Pilo’s Frederik V in his Anointing Robes (1750) and Juel’s The Dancing Glade at Sorgenfri (c. 1800).

Are you one of the fans of the new Netflix miniseries Alias Grace, adapted from Margaret Atwood’s bestselling 1996 novel? Some of us at SMK Open are following the series closely, not just because the story is compelling, but because our public domain collection is a key source to the scenography in several of the houses where Grace’s destiny unfolds.

In the first episode alone, we spotted with certainty eight highlights from SMK’s collection — primarily of Danish Golden Age painting, but one work from Rembrandt’s workshop has also found it’s way into the setting.

To the left of Grace hangs Købke’s Morning view of Østerbro, 1836 (top) and C. Hansen’s Arch of Titus, 1839 (below).

The story takes place in Canada in the 1840’s, and a valid question would be what Danish early 19th century painting has to do there? SMK obviously has no affiliation to the Netflix production. All we do is provide free and open access for all to use digital copies of artworks in the public domain. This also means that anyone is free to utilise the images for any purpose, and of course to take full responsibility for their own re-use of the material.

From a strictly art historical perspective, the use of Danish paintings in a Canadian historical setting is a bit amusing (though hypothetically, the household could very well be of European decent — immigrants who brought their family heritage with them to the new continent). But Netflix’ job is to create and disseminate entertaining films and series, not to educate the public about art history. That is SMK’s job, and we’re happy to tell you more about the stories and contexts of the beautiful artworks from our collection which you can see featured in Alias Grace.

Below you’ll find the eight artworks we’ve spotted so far (with links to high resolution images so you can download them for your own use too).

If you spot more SMK artworks in this or upcoming episodes, please drop us a line so we can complete the picture of how Danish artistic heritage is setting the stage for Grace & co.

Jens Juel (1745–1802), Niels Ryberg with his Son Johan Christian and his Daughter-in-Law Engelke, née Falbe, 1797. 253 x 336,5 cm. KMS6251, SMK / public domain

The merchant Niels Ryberg is shown sitting on a bench in the parklands of the manor house Frederiksgave on Funen, with his son Johan Christian and his daughter-in-law Engelke in front of him. The son makes a gesture with his hand, as though to show off the family estate.

Learn more and download at http://www.smk.dk/en/explore-the-art/highlights/jens-juel-niels-ryberg-with-his-son-johan-christian-and-his/

Christian Albrecht Jensen (1792–1870), Cathrine Jensen, née Lorenzen, the artist’s Wife, Wearing a Turban, ca. 1842–44. 68 x 53 cm. KMS3595. SMK / public domain

The portrait of the artist’s wife, Cathrine, has a timeless perspective. Cathrine’s right hand in front of her lap and the multi-coloured turban forming a halo around her head are quotations from canonical depictions of women within European art history, specifically from ancient statues of Venus holding her hands to modestly cover her bosom and sex, and the Renaissance painter Raphael’s portrait of his mistress, La Fornarina, wearing a similar turban.

Learn more and download at http://www.smk.dk/en/explore-the-art/highlights/christian-albrecht-jensen-cathrine-jensen-nee-lorenzen-the-artists/

Christen Købke (1810–48), Morning View of Østerbro, 1836. 106,5 x 161,5. KMS844. SMK / public domain

In 1833 Købke moved with his parents to Blegdammen by the Sortedam Lake, then located outside of Copenhagen proper. In the years that followed he found many of his motifs by the lake. Købke also found the scene shown in this picture close to his home, at the end of the lake. It shows Østerbrogade, still rural back in those days, edged by distinguished farm buildings.

Learn more and download at http://www.smk.dk/en/explore-the-art/highlights/christen-koebke-morning-of-oesterbro/

Johan Thomas Lundbye (1818–48), Kolås Wood. Vejrhøj, 1846. 24 x 33 cm. KMS4753. SMK / public domain

Lundbye was a votary of isolation as something conducive to the study’s union of the love of nature and the artistic spirit. In this case the signature tells us that the study was created on Vejrhøj, a landmark within the artist’s autobiographical landscape.

Learn more and download at http://www.smk.dk/en/explore-the-art/highlights/johan-thomas-lundbye-kolaas-wood-vejrhoej/

Constantin Hansen (1804–80), The Arch of Titus in Rome, 1839. 24x29 cm. KMS3679. SMK / public domain

During his time in Rome Constantin Hansen painted oil studies in the open air to provide variety in between his more complex figure compositions. Outdoors, he was free of any constraints concerning his contemporaries’ expectations as regards motif, method of painting, and composition.

Learn more and dowload at http://www.smk.dk/en/explore-the-art/highlights/constantin-hansen-the-arch-of-titus-in-rome/

Jens Juel (1745–1802), The Dancing Glade at Sorgenfri North of Copenhagen, c. 1800. 42x61 cm. KMS7661. SMK / public domain

At the end of the 18th century a new pastime became popular among the citizens of Copenhagen: outings to the Dancing Glade at Sorgenfri Palace north of Copenhagen. Here, the crowds would picnic, relax, and while away time playing games. Juel captures one of these carefree events.

Learn more and download at http://www.smk.dk/en/explore-the-art/highlights/jens-juel-the-dancing-glade-at-sorgenfri-north-of-copenhagen/

Carl Gustaf Pilo, Frederik V in his Anointing Robes, c. 1750. 231,5 x 139,5 cm. KMS856. SMK / public domain

The Swedish artist C.G. Pilo became a court painter in the Danish royal household in 1747, the same year that Frederic 5. was anointed King. Pilo remained court painter until he left Denmark again in 1771.

Learn more and download at http://www.smk.dk/en/explore-the-art/highlights/carl-gustaf-pilo-frederik-v-in-his-anointing-robes/

Rembrandt’s workshop, Willem Drost? (1633–58), Young Woman with a Carnation, 1656. 78,6 x 67,8 cm. KMS388. SMK / public domain

For many years this sensitive portrait was attributed to Rembrandt. However, the picture’s authenticity has been challenged over the last decades, meaning that it should now be attributed to one of Rembrandt’s late students, probably Willem Drost.

Learn more and dowload at http://www.smk.dk/en/explore-the-art/highlights/rembrandts-workshop-willem-drost-young-woman-with-a-carnation/

Read more on this story in Danish newspaper Berlingske.

Please note: We are trying to obtain permission from Netflix to show clips from Alias Grace which feature SMK images in the scenography.

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