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Imaginative Baroque portraits

Three works from the middle of the 1600s are an expression of the period’s great interest in the story of Denmark and its main characters. Antiquary Ole Worm visited Jelling in 1621. His principal work of six books on the Danish monuments Danicorum Monumentorum Libri Sex was published around 20 years later in 1643 (Hafniæ). This contains the first collected description of the Jelling monuments with a summary of the site and pictures of the two rune stones. The impressed plates for the pictures were re-used by Stephanus Johannis Stephanius, professor at Sorø Akademy, who published Saxo’s work Gesta Danorum “Deeds of the Danes” with notes and explanations (Hafniæ 1645).

Around the same time a great illustrated work was published with text in verse form, Regum Daniæ Icones, Pictures of the Danish Kings (Hafniæ 1646). In the book are 102 copper-engraved portraits of the Danish kings from the legendary King Dan to Christian IV, also amongst them Gorm the Old and his descendants. These were made by the copper engraver Albert Haelwegh and his workshop. They were modelled upon Hans Knieper’s famous wall hangings of kings, a series of tapestries woven between 1581 and 1585 for the Ballroom at Kronborg Castle.

Copper engravings from 1685

The copper engravings were copied and republished several times, by amongst others Joh. Chr. Beer of Nuremberg in a publication from 1685 with the long title Der Königen in Dänemark. Leben/ Regierung und Absterben/ von dem Ersten König Dan/ Biss auf den jetzt=regierenden König Christian den Fünfften/ Aus den bewährtesten Dänischen Geschicht=Schreibern hervorgesucht und zusammen getragen/ auch mit ihrem wahrhafften Bildniisen ans Licht gegeben. In this the portraits are reversed when compared to the original pictures from 1646.