Tapestry Thursday/Friday: That Ain’t Wallpaper, Guys! The Riddarsalen Tapestries, Frederiksborg Castle (Denmark)
Thursday Friday it is! Hopefully I’ll get better at posting things on Thursdays, but just now, as in many other areas in my life, I’m having trouble being punctual. But anyway, on with the show…
Today’s woven work is actually pretty freaking huge, and looks more like wallpaper than a traditional hanging tapestry. It’s also made up of several pieces joined together, so I guess one would have to discuss it in the plural instead of the singular. We’re talking about, just in case you were wondering, the tapestries in Riddarsalen (The Great Hall) in Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerød, Denmark, just outside of Copenhagen. I was there a couple of weeks ago with a friend and after a leisurely stroll in the Baroque gardens, we loafed into the castle itself. After pulling out our wallets at the ticket desk, we were informed that the place was closing in an hour. “No problem!” we said, and ambitiously walked away at a dangerously slow pace, confident that one hour was plenty of time. Well, we ended up spending a good 15 minutes in the first room alone (mainly discussing architecture) and then got caught up in the beauty of the castle’s chapel (saving that for another post), before realizing that they were closing in 10 minutes and we still hadn’t seen the riddarsal. Cue the Benny Hill-style music as we ran through various rooms trying to figure out which way to go, and were at last pointed up a tiny set of steps to our final destination.
And let me tell you, it was well worth the sprinting and the sweating. You really get that wind-knocked-out-of-you/I’m-at-Versailles kind of feeling (confession: I’ve never been to Versailles). As I ran around frantically taking as many pictures as I could to analyze later, I noticed that the walls were not actually covered in wallpaper, as it would seem from after, but tapestries! Hence the reason for this post, and I will now tell you all what you came here to read, i.e. what they show, when were they made, and who took all the time to weave these things (twice!).
Since a big part of the castle burned down in the 1859, the original riddarsalen, along with its tapestries, were irreperably damaged. But, thanks to the efforts of the Danish people and J.C. Jacobsen (the founder of the Carlsberg brewery), they were able to restore the castle to its original glory, including having the tapestries rewoven. The castle was renovated from 1874-1880, but the tapestries took twenty-eight years to complete after the work started in 1900.
They were recreated after the original designs by Karel von Mander and woven after cartoons by C.N. Overgaard. The actual weaving took place in Denmark by Danish weavers who had trained at Les Gobelins in Paris, which was unusual for the time (and I guess still is). The quality of the work is exceptional; everything is so vivid, so lifelike, and so harmonic. It might sound cheesy, but even in my five minutes there, I knew immediately that I was surrounded by something special.
The narrative series portrayed are as follows: scenes from the Kalmar War (1611-13, where Denmark won back a part of Norway from Sweden), Christian 4’s coronation procession (he was the king that commissioned the buidling of the castle, crowned 1596, died 1648), and scenes “from a guard room”, which sadly, I’m not sure what that actually entails. I managed to get a picture of one of the panels depicting the Kalmar War; it’s the one up there that also shows a girl poking the tapestry.
Here are a.) a detail from the coronation (I think), and b.) bits of the ceiling (awesome) and fireplace (equally as awesome). All the tapestries are fitted against the wall and follow all the turns and curves, even into the window niches. Quite a work of double trompe-l’oeil!
Seriously, if you get a chance to visit the castle, go straight to the chapel and Riddarsalen, since they are just mindblowingly amazing. I wish I had more time to explore and see more things close up, but that’ll have to wait until next time.
(Except for the orb photo, all pictures were taken by me.)