With the purchase of To læsende børn. Kunstnerens søn Peter og søsterdatter Cecilie Feilberg, gift Gottlieb (Two reading children. The artist’s son Peter and niece Cecilie Feilberg, later married name Gottlieb) from 1845, the Hirschsprung Collection acquires an important work by Christen Købke. The painting is from a time when Købke’s work takes on a more classifying tendency than previously seen.

Near and familiar topics

Christen Købke often painted his nearest surroundings: the area around the Citadel in Copenhagen, family and friends. The children in the family were among his favourite motifs, and in 1845 he painted this portrait of his son and niece.

The two children are standing arm in arm, as eight-year-old Cecilie reads to four-year-old Peter. Cecilie was the daughter of Købke’s sister Conradine Feilberg. In one of his letters to Conradine, Købke wrote: ‘There is certainly a warm friendship between your Cicilie and my Peter.’ The relationship between the two children is a beautiful reflection of the close bond between Købke and his sister. The care the girl shows for her younger cousin gives us an impression of the warm friendship, which is reinforced by their close physical contact in the painting.

Children of the Golden Age

With this painting Købke embraces the Golden Age fascination with children’s innocence and naive approach to the world. Købke was a strong colourist, and the colours in the portrait are expertly balanced. The red of the children’s cheeks and lips, Peter’s coral tunic and Cecilie’s beads are all within the same spectrum, and the white of Cecilie’s dress is echoed by Peter’s shirt collar and the pages of the book. The neutral background contributes to the sense of calm and the focused concentration that characterize the painting.

The painting is part of Købke’s later production, where he pursues a clearer and more restrained style than the vibrant, sketch-like technique that characterizes much of his oeuvre.

‘We are very happy that Christen Købke’s painting is going to be a part of the museum’s collection going forward. The twin portrait shows a side of Købke that has not been represented at the Hirschsprung Collection, namely his portraits of children, which hold such a key place in his production,’ says Gertrud Oelsner, director of the Hirschsprung Collection.

About Christen Købke

Christen Købke (1810–48) was born in Copenhagen and grew up in the area near the Citadel. He became a student at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts at the tender age of 12 and took lessons from both C. A. Lorentzen and C. W. Eckersberg. Today, Købke is considered one of the principal artists of Denmark’s Golden Age.

To læsende børn. Kunstnerens søn Peter og søsterdatter Cecilie Feilberg, gift Gottlieb was purchased with support from the Danish Agency for Culture and Palaces and the New Carlsberg Foundation. The painting will be on display at the museum from Wednesday, 26 September.