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Christian IV’s historical paintings

In the 1640s Christian IV (1588-1648) ordered a series of historical paintings for Kronborg Castle. One of them shows Harald Bluetooth’s baptism around 960. The work is by the Dutch painter Claes Corneliszoon Moeyaert (1591-1655), who is known for his biblical and mythological motifs. Historical painting was a genre which gave great prestige. At the same time it placed high demands on the artist, as the aim was to interpret and transform the great events in the history of kingdom into imagery, which could move both the mind and senses.

The painting of Harald reflects 17th century ideas about the baptism of a king. The scene takes place in a church in front of an altar. King Harald is kneeling in the middle. He is dressed in a blue tunic and yellow cloak, which displays red patterning and ermine trimmings. Around the neck he wears a chain of office and at his feet lie a crown and sceptre. Behind the king is the bishop, who is carrying out the baptism. A prelate holds the baptismal dish and the king’s warriors are amongst the onlookers.    

During the Danish-Swedish war of 1657-60 the painting was taken to Sweden as war booty and since 1702 has belonged to Östra Ryd Church, north of Stockholm. In the church are a rich collection of paintings, mainly war booty brought back by Field Marshall, Lord High Admiral Karl Gustav Wrangel (1603-1676) and later donated to the church by his grandson Abraham Brahe.