Sunday, 23 May 2010

What to see: Dano-Saxon exhibition, Rosenborg Palace, Copenhagen

Tomorrow is the last chance to see Rosenborg Palace’s magnificent exhibition “Faith, Power, Love”, which deals with the dynastic alliances between Denmark-Norway and Saxony in the years 1548-1709. A smaller version of an exhibition which has earlier been shown in Dresden, this exhibition contains many artefacts of unrivalled splendour from the treasury in Dresden.
The exhibition examines the close connections between the houses of Oldenburg and Wettin, which resulted in four marriages and one broken engagement: Christian III’s daughter Anna married August I of Saxony in 1548, Frederik II’s daughter Hedwig became the wife of Christian II of Saxony in 1602, Christian IV’s son and heir Christian married Magdalena Sibylla of Saxony in 1634 and, finally, Frederik III’s daughter Anna Sophie in 1665 became the consort of Elector Johann Georg III. Anna Sophie also pushed through her eldest son’s betrothal to her niece Sophie Hedvig, but the engagement was cancelled upon the death of Johann Georg III.
As the time-span for the exhibition indicates, the close relationship between the two houses was based closely on the fact that the Oldenburgs and the Wettins were two of the leading Protestant dynasties in Europe – it began with the Reformation and ended with August the Strong’s conversion to Catholicism in 1709.
That very year King Frederik IV of Denmark-Norway had visited his cousin in Dresden on his way back from Italy, a visit which was the occasion for some of the most splendid celebrations ever to be held in Europe, but which also ended in a political alliance which contributed to the end of Swedish dominance in Northern Europe. The highlights of the exhibition are some of the costumes worn for the festivities in Dresden in 1709 as well as the gifts exchanged between the two dynasties.
Among the most noteworthy items is the golden horn seen in the first photo. It is based on the famous golden horn from the sixth century which was found in 1639 and which Christian IV presented to his eldest son Christian. Following Prince Christian’s death in 1647 his widow Magdalena Sibylla was allowed to keep it until she remarried five years later. The original horn was stolen in 1802 and melted down, while this is an “interpreted replica” Magdalena Sibylla had had made in 1650.
But perhaps most splendid of all is the female moor holding a shell on which sits the dragon guarding the golden fleece of legend, holding the Order of the Elephant in its mouth (second photo). Made by Johann Melchior Dinglinger, Georg Friedrich Dinglinger and Benjamin Thomae in 1708-1709, it was made to celebrate the Dano-Saxon alliance against Sweden.
The third photo shows janissaries of ivory and gemstones which Frederik IV gave to his sister Sophie Hedvig, having bought or been presented with them during his visit to Dresden.
There are also several magnificent items from the festivities of 1709 – among them the golden mask (fourth photo) made by Johann Melchior Dinglinger and worn by Elector August in the role of Apollo at the carrousel held on 22 June 1709.
At another carrousel, “The Carrousel of the Four Continents”, held three days earlier King Frederik appeared as the “leader of the Europeans” and wore the helmet shaped as a golden eagle seen in the fifth photo. This was also made by Dinglinger.
The sixth photo shows the ceremonial outfit which King Frederik IV is believed to have worn at his first wedding in 1695, while the last picture shows more mundane pieces of clothing – Christian IV’s nightcap and slippers from about 1630.


  1. What a splendid exhibition. I would like to know what the amazing Apollo mask was made of.

  2. The mask is as far as I know made of gold.

  3. Having checked the exhibition catalogue I must now correct myself: it is made of gilt copper.


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