Friday, January 24, 2020

Alphonse Mucha and Art Noveau

 Alfons Maria Mucha   24 July 1860 – 14 July 1939, known internationally as  Alphonse Mucha, was a Czech painter, illustrator and graphic artist, living in Paris during the Art Noveau period, best known for his distinctly stylized and decorative theatrical posters . His illustrations, decorative panels, and designs, became among the best-known images of the period.

Alphonse Mucha was born in the small town of Ivancíce in  Moravia, now a region of the Czech republic. He showed an early talent for drawing. His father was a court usher, his mother a miller's daughter.  In 1871 Mucha became a chorister at the cathedral of Brno, where he received his secondary school education.  His singing abilities allowed him to continue his musical education at the Gymnázium Brno in the Moravian capital of Brno, but his true ambition was to become an artist, and in 1878 he applied without success to the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, but was rejected and advised "to find a different career".
The Slav Epic. King Premysl Ottokar of Bohemia

In 1880 he travelled to Vienna and found employment as a scenery painter for  Vienna theaters.  Here he discovered the museums, churches, palaces and especially theaters and also Hans Makart, who created murals for palaces and government buildings in Vienna. His style turned Mucha in that artistic direction and influenced his later work. He also began experimenting with photography, which became an important tool in his later work.

Later in 1881 he went by train to Mikulov in southern Moravia, and began making portraits, decorative art and lettering for tombstones. His work was appreciated, and he was commissioned by Count Eduard Khuen Belasi, a local landlord and nobleman, to paint a series of murals for his residence at Emmahof Castle, and at his ancestral home in the Tyrol, Gandegg Castle. The paintings at Emmahof were destroyed by fire in 1948, but his early versions in small format exist and are now on display at the museum in Brno. He showed his skill at mythological themes, the female form, and lush vegetal decoration.

From Museum in

Count Belasi decided to bring Mucha to Munich for formal training, and paid his tuition and cost of living at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts.  He moved there in September 1885.  He became friends with a number of notable Slavic artists there, including the Czechs Karel Vitezslav Masek, Ludek Marold and the Russian Leonid Pasternak, father of the famous novellist Boris Pasternak. He founded a Czech students' club, and contributed political illustrations to nationalist publications in Prague. In 1886 he received a notable commission for a painting of the Czech patron Saints Cyril and Methodius, from a group of Czech emigrants, including some of his relatives, who had founded a Roman Catholic church in the town of Oisek, North Dakota. He was happy with the artistic environment of Munich, but found he could not remain there forever; the Bavarian authorities imposed increasing restrictions upon foreign students and residents. With Count  Belasi's financial support, he decided in 1887 to move to Paris.In Paris, in 1888, he enrolled in the Academie Julian - and the following year, 1889, Academie Colarossi. His first professors at the Academie Julian were  Jules Lefebre, who specialized in female nudes and allegorical paintings, and Jean Paul Laurens, whose specialties were historical and religious paintings in a realistic and dramatic style.  At the end of 1889, as he approached the age of thirty, his patron, Count Belasi, decided that Mucha had received enough education and ended his subsidies.

Museum: Prophetess
In Paris, Mucha found shelter with the help of the large Slavic community. He lived in a boarding house called the Crémerie at 13 rue de la Grand Chaumerie, whose owner, Charlotte Caron, was famous for sheltering struggling artists; when needed she accepted paintings or drawings in place of rent.  Mucha decided to follow the path of another Czech painter he knew from Munich, Ludek Marold, who had made a successful career as an illustrator for magazines. In 1890 and 1891, he began providing illustrations for the weekly magazine La Vie popular, which published novels in weekly segments. His illustration for a novel by Guy de Maupassant, called The Useless Beauty, was on the cover of the 22 May 1890 edition.

His illustrations began to give him a regular income. He was able to buy a harmonium to continue his musical interests and a camera, which used glass-plate negatives. He took pictures of himself and his friends, and also regularly used it to compose his drawings. He became friends with Paul Gauguin, and shared a studio with him for a time when Gauguin returned from Tahiti in the summer of 1893. In late autumn 1894 he also became friends with the playwright August Strindberg, with whom he had a common interest in philosophy and mysticism. Four of his illustrations, including one depicting the death of Frederic Barbarossa, were chosen for display at the 1894 Paris Salon of Artists. He received a medal of honor, his first official recognition.

At the end of 1894 his career took a dramatic and unexpected turn when he began to work for French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt. As Mucha later described it, on 26 December Bernhardt made a telephone call to Maurice de Brunhoff, the manager of the publishing firm Lemercier which printed her theatrical posters, ordering a new poster for the continuation of the play Gismonda. The play, by  Victorien Sardou, had already opened with great success on 31 October 1894 at the Theatre de la Renaissance, on the Boulevard Saint-Martin. Bernardt decided to have a poster made to advertise the prolongation of the theatrical run after the Christmas break and insisting it be ready by 1 January 1897.

When Bernhardt called, Mucha happened to be at the publishing house correcting proofs. He already had experience painting Bernhardt; he had made a series of illustrations of her performing in Cleopatra for Costume au Théâtre in 1890. When Gismonda opened in October 1894, Mucha had been commissioned by the magazine Le Gaulois to make a series of illustrations of Bernhardt in the role for a special Christmas supplement, which was published at Christmas 1894, for the high price of fifty centimes a copy.

Brunhoff asked Mucha to quickly design the new poster for Bernhardt. The poster was more than life-size; a little more than two meters high, with Bernhardt in the costume of a Byzantine noblewoman, dressed in an orchid headdress and floral stole, and holding a palm branch in the Easter procession near the end of the play. One of the innovative features of the posters was the ornate rainbow-shaped arch behind the head, almost like a halo, which focused attention on her face; this feature appeared in all of his future theater posters. Probably because of a shortage of time, some areas of the background were left blank instead of his usual decoration. The only background decoration were the Byzantine mosaic tiles behind her head. The poster featured extremely fine draftsmanship and delicate pastel colors, unlike the typical brightly-colored posters of the time. The top of the poster, with the title, was richly composed and ornamented, and balanced the bottom, where the essential information was given in the shortest possible form; just the name of the theater.

The poster appeared on the streets of Paris on 1 January 1895 and caused an immediate sensation. Bernhardt was pleased by the reaction; she ordered four thousand copies of the poster in 1895 and 1896, and gave Mucha a six-year contract to produce more. With his posters all over the city, Mucha found himself famous quite suddenly.

Following Gismonda, Bernardt switched to a different printer, F. Champenois, who, like Mucha, was put under contract to work for Bernhardt for six years. Champenois had a large printing house on Boulevard Saint Michel which employed three hundred workers, with twenty steam presses. He gave Mucha a generous monthly salary in exchange for the rights to publish all his works. With his increased income, Mucha was able to move to a three-bedroom apartment with a large studio inside a large historic house at 6 rue du Val-de-Grace originally built by Francois Mansart.

Mucha designed posters for each successive Bernhardt play, beginning with a reprise of one of her La Tosca. In addition to posters, he designed theatrical programs, sets, costumes, and jewelry for Bernhardt. The enterprising Bernhardt set aside a certain number of printed posters of each play to sell to collectors.
Early great successes, la Dame aux Camelias (September 1896), followed by Lorenzaccio (1896); Medea (1898);la Tosca (1898) and Hamlet (1899).

The success of the Bernhardt posters brought Mucha commissions for advertising posters. He designed posters for JOB cigarette papers, Ruinart Champagne, Lefèvre-Utile biscuits, Nestlé baby food, Idéal Chocolate, the Beers of the Meuse, Moët-Chandon champagne, Trappestine brandy, and Waverly and Perfect bicycles. With Champenois, he also created a new kind of product, a decorative panel, a poster without text, purely for decoration. They were published in large print runs for a modest price. The first series was The Seasons, published in 1896, depicting four different women in extremely decorative floral settings representing the seasons of the year. In 1897 he produced an individual decorative panel of a young woman in a floral setting, called Reverie, for Champenois.

He also designed a calendar with a woman's head surrounded by the signs of the zodiac. The Seasons series was followed by The Flowers The Arts (1898), The Times of Day (1899), Precious Stones (1900), and The Moon and the Stars (1902). Between 1896 and 1904 Mucha created over one hundred poster designs for Champenois. These were sold in various formats, ranging from expensive versions printed on Japanese paper or vellum, to less expensive versions which combined multiple images, to calendars and postcards. His posters focused almost entirely on beautiful women in lavish settings with their hair usually curling in arabesque forms and filling the frame.

 His poster for the railway line between Paris and Monaco-Monte-Carlo (1897) did not show a train or any identifiable scene of Monaco or Monte-Carlo; it showed a beautiful young woman in a kind of reverie, surrounded by swirling floral images, which suggested the turning wheels of a train.

The magazine La Plume made a special edition devoted to his work, and his exhibition traveled to Vienna, Prague, Munich, Brussels, London, and New York, giving him an international reputation.

The Paris Universal Exposition of 1900, famous as the first grand showcase of the Art Noveau, gave Mucha an opportunity to move in an entirely different direction, toward the large-scale historical paintings which he had admired in Vienna. It also allowed him to express his Czech patriotism. His foreign name had caused much speculation in the French press, which distressed him. Sarah Bernhardt stood up on his behalf, declaring in La France that Mucha was "a Czech from Moravia not only by birth and origin, but also by feeling, by conviction and by patriotism."

He applied to the Austrian government and received a commission to create murals for the Pavilion of  Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Exposition.  The temporary building built for the Exposition had three large halls with two levels, with a ceiling more than twelve meters high, and with natural light from skylights. His experience in theater decoration gave him the ability to paint large-scale paintings in a short period of time.

Mucha's original concept was a group of murals depicting the suffering of the Slavic inhabitants of the region caused by the occupation by foreign powers. The sponsors of the exhibit, the Austrian government, the new occupier of the region, declared that this was a little pessimistic for a World's Fair. He changed his project to depict a future society in the Balkans where Catholic and Orthodox Christians and Muslims lived in harmony together; this was accepted, and he began work. Mucha immediately departed for the Balkans to make sketches of Balkan costumes, ceremonies and architecture which he put into his new work. His decoration included one large allegorical painting, Bosnia Offers Her Products to the Universal Exposition, plus an additional set of murals on three walls, showing the history and cultural development of the region. He did discreetly include some images of the sufferings of the Bosnians under foreign rule which appear in the arched band at the top of the mural.

As he had done with his theater work, he often took photographs of posed models, and painted from them, simplifying the forms. While the work depicted dramatic events, the overall impression given by the work was one of serenity and harmony. In addition to the murals, Mucha also designed a menu for the restaurant of the Bosnia Pavilion. His work appeared in many forms at the Exposition. He designed the posters for the official Austrian participation in the Exposition, the menu for the restaurant at the Bosnian pavilion, and menu for the official opening banquet. He produced displays for the jeweler Georges Fouquet and the perfume maker Houbigant, with statuettes and panels of women depicting the scents of rose, orange blossom, violet and buttercup. His more serious art works, including his drawings for Le Pater, were shown in the Austrian Pavilion and in the Austrian section of the grand palais.

His work at the Exposition earned him the title of Knight of the Order of Franz Joseph I from the Austrian government, the Legion of Honor from the French Government. During the course of the Exposition, Mucha proposed another unusual project. The Government of France planned to take down the Eiffel Tower, built especially for the Exposition, as soon as the Exposition ended. Mucha proposed that, after the Exposition, the top of the tower should be replaced by a sculptural monument to humanity be constructed on the pedestal. The tower proved to be popular with both tourists and Parisians, and the Eiffel Tower remained after the Exhibit end.

Mucha's many interests included jewelry. His 1902 book, Documents Decoratifs, contained plates of elaborate designs for brooches and other pieces, with swirling arabesques and vegetal forms, with incrustations of enamel and colored stones. In 1899 he collaborated with the jeweler Georges Fouquet to make a bracelet for Sarah Bernhardt in the form of a serpent, made of gold and enamel, similar to the costume jewelry Bernhardt wore in Medea. The Cascade pendant designed for Fouquet by Mucha )1900) is in the form of a waterfall, composed of gold, enamel, opals, tiny diamonds, paillons, and a barocco or misshapen pearl.

 After the 1900 Exposition, Fouquet decided to open a new shop at 6 Rue Royale, across the street from the restaurant Maxim's. He asked Mucha to design the interior. The centerpieces of the design were two peacocks, the traditional symbol of luxury, made of bronze and wood with colored glass decoration. To the side was a shell-shaped fountain, with three gargoyles spouting water into basins, surrounding the statue of a nude woman. The salon was further decorated with carved moldings and stained glass, thin columents with vegetal designs, and a ceiling with molded floral and vegetal elements. It marked a summit of Art Nouveau decoration. The Salon opened in 1901, just as tastes were beginning to change, moving away from Art Nouveau to more naturalistic patterns. It was taken apart in 1923, and replaced by a more traditional shop design. Fortunately most of the original decoration was preserved, and was donated in 1914 and 1949 to the carnavalet museum in Paris, where it can be seen today.

Mucha's next project was a series of seventy-two printed plates of watercolors of designs, titled Documents Decoratifs, which were published in 1902 by the Librarie central des beaux-arts. They represented ways that floral, vegetal and natural forms could be used in decoration and decorative objects. In about 1900 he had begun to teach at the Academy Colarossi, where he himself had been a student when he first arrived in Paris.

In March 1904 he sailed for New York and the beginning of his first visit to the United States. His intent was to find funding for his grand project, The Slav Epic, which he had conceived during the 1900 Exposition. He had letters of introduction from Baroness Salomon de Rothschild. When he landed in New York, he was already a celebrity in the United States; his posters had been widely displayed during Sarah Bernhardt's annual American tours since 1896. He rented a studio near Central Park, made portraits, and gave interviews and lectures. . At one Pan-Slavic banquet in New York City, he met  Charles Richard Crane, who commissioned Mucha to make a portrait of his daughter in a traditional Slavic style, and he shared Mucha's enthusiasm for a series of monumental paintings on Slavic history. He became Mucha's most important patron. When Mucha designed the Czechoslovak bills, he used his portrait of Crane's daughter as the model for Slavia for the 100 koruna bill.
He still had commissions to complete in France, and returned to Paris at the end of May 1904. In 1906, he returned to New York with his new wife, (Marie/Maria) Chytilová, whom he had married on 10 June 1906, in Prague. He remained in the U.S. until 1909. Their first child, Jaroslava, was born in New York in 1909. His principal income in the United States came from teaching; he taught illustration and design at the New York School of Applied Design for Women, at the Philadelphia School of Art for five weeks, and became a visiting professor at the Art institute of Chicago.  In 1908 he also undertook one large decoration project, for the interior of the German Theater of New York; he produced three large allegorical murals, in the Art Nouveau style, representing Tragedy, Comedy and Truth. Besides the decoration, he made graphic designs, stage and costume designs.
Artistically, the trip was not a success; portrait painting was not his strong point, and the German Theater closed in 1909, one year after it opened. He made posters for the American actress mrs Leslie Carter (known as 'The American Sarah Bernhardt') and the Broadway star Maude Adams,   but they were largely echoes of his Bernhardt posters. His finest work in America is often considered to be his portrait of Josephine Crane Bradley, the daughter of his patron, in the character of Slavia, in Slavic costume and surrounded by symbols from Slavic folklore and art. His contact with Crane made possible his most ambitious artistic project, the Slav Epic.

Mucha made a considerable income from his theatrical and advertising work, but he wished even more to be recognized as a serious artist and philosopher. He was a devoted Catholic, but also was interested in mysticism. In January 1898 he joined the Paris masonic lodge of the Grand Orient de France. . The Pater Noster (Lord's Prayer): why not give the words a pictorial expression?".  He considered Le Pater to be his printed masterpiece, and referred to it in the New York Sun of 5 January 1900 as a work into which he had "put his soul".

In the second part of his career, at the age of 43, he returned to his homeland of Bohemia-Moravia region in Austria and devoted himself to painting a series of twenty monumental canvases known as The Slav Epic, depicting the history of all the slavic peoples of the world, which he painted between 1912 and 1926. In 1928, on the 10th anniversary of the independence of Czechoslovakia, he presented the series to the Czech nation. He considered it his most important work. It is now on display in Brno.

During his long stay in Paris, Mucha had never given up his dream of being a history painter, and to illustrate accomplishments of the Slavic peoples of Europe. He completed his plans for the Slav Epic in 1908 and 1909, and in February 1910, Charles Crane agreed to fund the project. In 1909, he had been offered a commission to paint murals on the interior of the new City Hall of Prague. He made the decision to return to his old country, still then part of the Austrian Empire.His first project in 1910 was the decoration of the reception room of the Mayor of Prague. This quickly became controversial, because local Prague artists resented the work being given to an artist they considered an outsider. A compromise was reached, whereby he decorated the Lord Mayor's Hall, while the other artists decorated the other rooms. He designed and created a series of large-scale murals for the domed ceiling and walls with athletic figures in heroic poses, depicting the contributions of Slavs to European history over the centuries, and the theme of Slavic unity. These paintings on the ceiling and walls were in sharp contrast to his Parisian work, and were designed to send a patriotic message. 
The Lord Mayor's Hall was finished in 1911, and Mucha was able to devote his attention to what he considered his most important work; "The Slav Epic", a series of large painting illustrating the achievements of the Slavic peoples over history. The series had twenty paintings, half devoted to the history of the Czechs, and ten to other Slavic peoples. The canvases were enormous; the finished works measured six by eight meters. To paint them he rented an apartment and a studio in the Zbiroh Castle in western Bohemia, where he lived and worked until 1928.
While living in Paris Mucha had imagined the series as "light shining into the souls of all people with its clear ideals and burning warnings." To prepare the project he traveled to all the Slavic countries, from Russia and Poland to the Balkans, making sketches and taking photographs. He used costumed models and still and motion picture cameras to set the scenes, often encouraging the models to create their own poses. He used egg tempera paint, which, according to his research, was quicker-drying and more luminous, and would last longer. 

He created the twenty canvases between 1912 and 1926. He worked throughout the First World War, when the Austrian Empire was at war with France, despite wartime restrictions, which made canvas hard to obtain. He continued his work after the war ended, when the new Republic of Czechoslovkia was created. The cycle was completed in 1928 in time for the tenth anniversary of the proclamation of the Czechoslovak Republic. Under the conditions of his contract he donated his work to the city of Prague in 1928. The Epic was shown in Prague twice in his lifetime, in 1919 and 1928. After 1928 it was rolled up and put into storage. From 1963 until 2012 the series was on display in the chateau in Moravsky Krumlov in the South Moravian region in the Czech Republic. Since 2012 the series has been on display at the National Gallery's Veletrzni Palace in Prague.
While he was working on the Slavic Epic, he also did work for the Czech government. In 1918, he Jeu de Paume museum, with 139 works, including three canvases from the Slav Epic.


Hitler and Nazi Germany began to threaten Czechoslovakia in the 1930s. Mucha began work on a new series, a triptych depicting the Age of Reason, the Age of Wisdom and the Age of Love, which he worked on from 1936 to 1938, but never completed. On 15 March 1939, the German army paraded through Prague, and Hitler, at Prague castle, declared lands of the former Czechoslovakia to be part of the Greater German Reich as the protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia . Mucha's role as a Slav nationalist and freemason made him a prime target. He was arrested, interrogated for several days, and released. By then his health was broken. He contracted pneumonia and died on 14 July 1939, a few weeks before the outbreak of the Second World War. Though public gatherings were banned, a huge crowd attended his interment in the slavin Monument of Vysehrad cemetery, reserved for notable figures in Czech culture.

Mucha was and remains best known for his Art Noveau  work, which frustrated him. According to his son and biographer, Jiri Mucha , he did not think much of Art Nouveau. "What is it, Art Nouveau?" he asked. "...Art can never be new." He took the greatest pride in his work as a history painter.  Although it enjoys great popularity today, at the time of his death Mucha's style was considered outdated. His son, author Jiri Mucha, devoted much of his life to writing about him and bringing attention to his artwork. In his own country, the new authorities were not interested in Mucha. The Slav Epic was rolled and stored for twenty-five years before being shown in Moravský Krumlov. The National Gallery in Prague  now displays the Slav Epic, and has the major collection of his work. Mucha is also credited with restoring the movement of Czech Freemasonry.

One of the largest collections of Mucha's works is in the possession of former world no.1  professional tennis player Ivan Lendl, who started collecting his works upon meeting Jiří Mucha in 1982. His collection was exhibited publicly for the first time in 2013 in Prague.


Sunday, December 08, 2019

Knud Lavard was murdered at Christmas in 1130

Knud Eriksson Lavard
* March 12. 1096 + January 7. 1131

Sct.Bendts Church, Ringsted, Zealand

Knud was a son of Erik 1. Ejegod and Bodil Thrugotsdatter. After his parents' death on a pilgrimage the seven year old Knud was first brought up by the legendary Zealand chief Skjalm Hvide and later by Herzog Lothar of Saxony, who became German king in 1125. Knud was married to Ingeborg of Russia in 1116; she was a daughter of Grossfürst Mstislav 1. of Kiev and Christina of Sweden, and about the same time , when he was about 20 years old, he became Jarl of the border and Hertug of Schleswig. His mission was to protect the merchants and the trade routes against the Wends, which he did so successfully that the merchants appointed him their patron protector. His byname Lavard was a name of honour; the word originated from Old English hlaford = Lord. It meant Lord(Herre) in Saxon and other Germanic languages - the original meaning was bread giver.

In the beginning of the 1100s Henrik Gottskalkssøn, a son of the Abodrit knés Gottskalk, threatened the Danish south border, since king Niels, his mother's brother, would not pay the inheritance after his mother Sigrid, a daughter of Svend Estridssen. Knud Lavard fought for some years several times against Henrik, until a peace was contracted between Danes and Abodrits. After Henrik Gottskalkssøn's death Knud became - with the assistance from king Lothar - Henrik's successor as knés over the Abodrits under Saxon superiority. Knud Lavard was in this way both the Danish and German king's vassal.

As a son of king Erik 1. Ejegod Knud Lavard was an obvious candidate to the Danish throne, also because he had important and friendly contacts to king Lothar and the Wends, but others were more than interested in the royal power. Among those were his cousin Magnus, a son of king Niels - and another cousin, Henrik Skadelaar, a son of Svend, who like Niels and Erik Ejegod was a son of Svend Estridssen. Svend had been desperate for gaining the Danish crown, but he died on 1104 on his way to Viborg Thing. Henrik had inherited his father's dream; he conspired with Magnus against Knud Lavard for years.

Roskilde Cathedral, ZealandIt all started seemingly peaceful Christmas 1130 in a cosy get-together of the royal family. King Niels, who was about 66 years old, had gathered some of his family in Roskilde. At that point his queen, Margrethe Fredkulla had been gone long ago, it is said she died about 1117. The family members assembled that Christmas might have been Magnus and his wife, Richiza of Poland and their children; Henrik Skadelaar was probably alone, since his wife Ingerid, who was a brother's daughter of Margrethe Fredkulla, had run away with her lover - unless he had brought her back again. The story says he found her in Aalborg. They had three sons.The special Christmas guests were Knud Lavard and his pregnant wife, Ingeborg, and possibly their three daughters, Margrethe, Christina and Cathrine, the eldest was about 13-14 years old. Ingeborg's mother, Christina,was a sister of Margrethe Fredkulla - everyone in these Christmas days were closely related - and yet something sinister went on underneath the surface.

Margrethe was known to be a peacemaker. Her byname Fredkulla meant "The Peace Girl", and while she lived, she had probably enough to do keeping peace among Svend Estridssen's strong willed sons and grandsons. A source says that she had made bad blood between Magnus and Knud Lavard, but it was more plausible Henrik Skadelaar, who intrigued with Magnus against Knud. Henrik was often mentioned as a bitter person, filled with envy and hate against Knud Lavard.Knud was blamed for his royal behaviour and luxurious "foreign" clothes; it was not suitable to outshine the king himself. Maybe it was on this Christmas holiday that Henrik exclaimed that Scarlet clothes would never secure Knud against a sword, to which Knud replied that Henrik was not at all safer in his sheepskins.

After the visit in Roskilde Knud Lavard and his wife and daughters went to visit another kinsman, a daughter of Knud the Holy, Cæcilia and her husband Erik Jarl on their manor house near Haraldsted Church north of Ringsted. Cæcilia and Erik had strong family ties to the powerful Hvide family, since their daughter Inge was married to Skjalm Hvide's son Asser Rig (Ryg). Inge and Asser had two little sons, Absalon was two and Esbern(Snare) three years old. They didn't know yet, but they would soon become the sworn brothers of Knud and Ingeborg's son Valdemar.

While Knud Lavard and Ingeborg were guests by Cæcilia and Erik Jarl, Magnus summoned Knud for a friendly meeting in Haraldsted Forest on January 7th. Ingeborg was suspicious and tried to persuade her husband not to go, but Knud suspected no foul play. He went off with only a few men and straight into an ambush, in which he was murdered by Magnus and his men on the day after Twelfth Night.

Haraldsted Church, Zealand

It is easy to imagine the horror and grief in Knud Lavard's family. Cæcilia asked - probably on behalf of the shocked Ingeborg - that Knud's body should be brought to Haraldsted Church and buried there, but some days later his coffin was carried to Ringsted. On January 14th, seven days after her husband's murder, Ingeborg gave birth to a son, who was named Valdemar after her grandfather, Grand Prince Vladimir Monomachos of Kijev.

Ingeborg spent probably some time by the family in Haraldsted, and she decided that it would be safest for her son to be brought up in the strong and loyal Hvide family like his father before him. Years later she made another important decision for her son. On September 18th in 1137 king Erik 2. Emune was murdered, and the chief Kristiern Svendsen, a cousin of Knud Lavard and one of the mightiest men in the country, wanted the six year old Valdemar pronounced king of Denmark, but Ingeborg opposed strongly and did not give her consent.

Sct. Bendts Church, Ringsted, Zealand

After Knud Lavard's murder the Zealand chiefs held a thing and forced king Niels to send Magnus in exile. Knud's half brother Erik Emune acted as Knud's avenger and was pronounced king in Skaane. Henrik Skadelaar still worked behind scenes and persuaded king Niels to send for his son again, and it was actually Magnus' return, which started several years of bloody civil war between Niels and Magnus on one side and Erik Emune on the other.

Down south the situation was also tense. The German-Roman emperor Lothar (crowned emperor 1133) wanted revenge for the murder of his vassal. In 1134, during the civil wars, the new pope, Innocens, abolished the independence of the Danish Church and placed it under Hamburg-Bremen again. This caused archbishop Asser to join Erik Emune - and so did the migthy Hvide family.

After years of violent civil wars and various victories and defeats it ended on June 4th 1134 in a battle by Fodevig near Lund in Skaane. The battle was a total defeat for Niels and Magnus. Magnus and Henrik Skadelaar were killed, and Niels fled to Schleswig,where he was recognized and killed by the citizens who wanted to revenge Knud Lavard. Erik Emune came on the throne and started at once the efforts to strenghten his legality by having Knud Lavard sainted.

Knud Lavard's chapel, Haraldsted, Zealand

According to tradition a spring welled up where Knud Lavard was murdered - and another spring where the bearers stopped on their way to Ringsted. Soon miracles happened by his grave, and an abbey was founded in 1135 to take care of the grave and help the pious pilgrims, who came to visit. Upon the scene of the murder a chapel was built, which gave good income by pilgrimages.

Finally the Holy See had to acknowledge Knud Lavard as a saint, and in a great ceremony his bones were moved into a glorious shrine upon the high altar of the big - not yet finished abbey church, which later was given the name Sct. Bendts Church. This happened on June 25. 1170, which became Knud Lavard's official Saint's day. At this point Knud's son had gained power long ago. He was crowned sole king in 1157 by the name Valdemar the Great.

photos: grethe bachmann

Thursday, October 31, 2019



November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows.

With night coming early,
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.

- Clyde Watson
November is the 11th month of the year, but it was the 9th month in the old Roman calendar. It was named Novemb which means 9. In old Danish it was called Slagtemåned (Slaughter Month), because the animals were being slaughtered before winter.

Mortensaften on the 10th of November is connected to bishop Martin of Tours. He had to be elected bishop in the year 371, but he didn't want to and was hiding among a flock of geese. They revealed him by their cackling, and according to Danish tradition we slaughter and eat the geese on Mortensaften, because they betrayed Morten .

Morten (= St. Martin) is the protector of all domestic animals and the guardian angel of all boozers. Mortens dag is on the 11th November, but the Danish celebration is the evening before, on the 10th. But not only geese are popular on the dinner table that night. Duck, turkey, venison, the tradition has changed like so many other traditions.

A weather omen says that a mild Mortensaften on the 10th of November promises a white Christmas.

A few things happening out in the Danish nature now:
There is only one little bird singing in November , and it sings through the whole winter; it's the wren, the smallest but one bird in Denmark.
The last hedgehogs are hiding for their winter sleep.
The ermine is changing its brown summer fur to winter white.
Some years invasions of crossbills arrive from the north.
Tufted ducks arrive to the country by the thousand.

photo: gb

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Jelling and the Jellingstone - Denmark's Birth Certificate

Denmark's Birth Certificate

With the hills, the church and the rune stones Jelling was not just meant to be a royal mausoleum but quite distinctly also meant to be a powerful center of the Danish kingdom.

Two very special rune stones stand outside the church in Jelling church in the middle of the two biggest grave hills in Denmark. The big stone, Jellingstenen or Harald's sten, is known as Denmark's birth certificate and is the most magnificent runic memory of Denmark. It is dated to a time between Harald's baptism ab. 965 and his death, latest in 987. Upon the broad side of the three-sided big Jellingstone is an inscription which takes up an exceptional position because of the horizontal runes. The inscription is sourrounded by winding bands. The words from Harald himself are:
'Kong Harald bød gøre disse kumler efter Gorm sin fader og efter Thyra sin moder, den Harald, som vandt sig hele Danmark og Norge og gjorde danerne kristne'.

King Haraldr ordered this monument made in memory of Gormr, his father, and in memory of Thyrvé, his mother; that Haraldr who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian."
(Rundata, DR 42)

The lion and the snake

The ornamental and figurative style makes the Jellingstone unique in the Scandinavian find from the Viking period. The winding style of the lion and the snake is the same early Jelling style as upon the little silver cup from the North hill. The ornamentation indicates that it might have been executed by a North English or Irish visual artist.

(The Silver Cup see my blog):
Ancient Danish Families
June 2006 /article Preface Gorm & Thyra).

Christ with ornaments.On the third side is Christ without a cross surrounded by the typical winding bands. The figures are on all three sides carved in low relief and were probably painted from the beginning of their existence. The Christ figure is the earliest known of the North.

The earliest mention of Danmark.

In the Anglo-Saxon king Alfred the Great's prologue to Orosius' World's History the name Danmark (Denemearcan) is mentioned for the first time in the World's Literature. It started as a local name Danernes Mark ,which was used and contracted as Danmark before year 900. Considering king Alfred's paper the name Danmark must have been in use already before 900. Gorm's stone has the earliest (in Denmark) recorded use of the name Danmark. The stone is raised afterGorm became king in 934 and before his death in 958. The stone is raised after Thyra's death, and we do not know her date of death.

Gorm's memory of Thyra

kurmr kunukr karthi kubl thusi aft thurui kunu sina tanmakar but
Gorm konge gjorde kumler disse efter Thyra kone sin danmarks bod

'King Gorm made this monument in memory of Thyra, his wife, Denmark's salvation'.

The little stone was in year 1600 used as a bench in the porch of the church, but was in 1639 placed close to the big stone.

The stones are strongly identified with the creation of Denmark as a nation state.

Stones by the North hill from the Stone Ship System

In the heart of the North hill was a small Bronze Age hill, exactly at the northern point of a huge stone ship system which southern point ends under the South hill. The northern part of this stone ship system must however have been levelled in the Viking period simultaneous with the extension of the earlier hill, which was then covered in turf. Inside the hill was built a burial chamber with ceiling, wall and floor of wood. The dendrochronological test datings of the chamber have proved that the wood was cut down in 958-959. This is supposedly the time for both the building of the chamber and for king Gorm's year of death. The south hill is supposedly contemporary.

Jelling church and a small corner of the North hill

Jelling church was built ab. year 1100, but before this three succeeding wooden churches were placed here according to excavations in 1976-79. The earliest church from Harald Bluetooth's time was a rather big church, even bigger than other early wooden churches in Scandinavia at that time - a size fitting for a royal church building. The wooden church in Jelling might have been larger than any earlier Danish building and with its forest of columns more magnificent too. The groundplan was influenced by contemporary German churches. There was probably an influence from the palaces in Aachen and Ingelheim.

Gorms burial place is under the short silver bands

It is rather remarkable that under the traces of the wooden churches in the east was a burial chamber like the one in the North hill, and in the room were bones from a man , about 40-50 years of age and about 1.72 m tall. After the examination it was declared that he 'like most middle-aged Danes suffered from osteoarthritis in the bottom part of the spinal column'.
Unfortunately the chamber was broken up and emptied in ancient time. Only little was left, biut it shows after all that the grave furniture must have been very rich. Traces of gold thread which came from fabrics of the highest quality were found together with two silver strap plates (remendebeslag = riding equipment) In the Jelling style like the silver cup from the North hill. When the chamber was cleared they overlooked the little silver cup, which is now at Jelling Museum opposite the church. Unfortunately the Bronze Age hill was disturbed and robbed in the early Middle Ages.

Harald had probably after his christening decided that his father necessarily had to be moved from his heathen grave to a grave in a Christian church. Thyra's burial place is still a big mystery.

Jelling church interior, the frescoes were damaged and have been copied by a modern painter.
On December 3rd in 2000 the Millenium was celebrated in Jelling church after a new and comprehensive decoration.

Jelling Museum opposite the church.

The stone mason and rune carver Erik the Red (Erik Sandquist) has carved a new rune stone and a landmark for Kongernes Jelling, the museum and communication center in Jelling. He says that he felt it a great honour to be allowed to make this stone. It took him 350 hours to carve the 3000 kilo granite block and he made it in the Mammen style with winding dragons and ornamentation. There are six succeeding styles: 1) Oseberg, 2) Borre, 3) Mammen, 4) Jelling, 5) Ringerike, 6) Urness. The styles begin about year 800 and succeed one another for the next 400 years. They are named after the geographical places where the biggest and most important finds have been made.

A big granite stone is now changed into a runestone of the Present. It has four sides, one with the Tree of Life, one with a mask, one with birds and one with a runic text. It is one of Erik's biggests works - and it is a masterpiece. The ornaments are painted in strong old viking colours . The background of the granite stone is not painted, since it was important to see that this was a real granite stone and not a plastic one.

Erik the Red's runic text:

Tyd du tidernes runer
I Kongernes Jelling
Erik huggede dette kuml.

Interpret the runes of times
in Jelling of the Kings
Erik carved this stone.

Past and Present in Jelling, the North Hill and a Jet.

Politikens Danmarkshistorie, bd. 3, Da Danmark blev Danmark, Peter Sawyer
Exploring the World of the Vikings , Richard Hall
Fortidsminder i Danmark, Henning Dehn-Nielsen
Fortidens Jelling, Runemesteren Erik den Røde

Jelling Museum
photo 060408: grethe bachmann, Jelling, Southeast Jutland

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Danish Crown Jewels at Rosenborg Castle

Christian 5.s Crown of the Absolute Monarch

The best known of the Danish crowns is Christian 5.s crown, which was made for Denmark's second absolute monarch Christian 5. in 1671. It was used by all absolute monarchs of Denmark from Christan 5. till Christian 8. The crown is also depicted in the top of the Danish royal coat of arms and the Danish national emblem of arms.

The goldsmith behind the more than two kilo heavy crown (total weight 2080gr.)  was the German goldsmith Paul Kurtz, who worked in Copenhagen. The crown is made in gold, decorated with flat square taffelsten (table-cut stones) and enamel decorations. The round bow of the crown  forms a closure, which was inspired by the crown of the absolute monarch of France, Louis 14., and it symbolizes the monarch's absolute power. The bows of the crown meet at the top in a globe or rigsæble (orb), which is a sign of power and dignity of the monarch.(insignia).  Above the globe is a little cross, it shows in the symbolic language of that period that the church is the only power above the royal power. 

The crown is decorated with several precious stones, like winding rows of diamonds, saphires and garnets. At the top of the cross is a socalled korund: a saphire with a stripe of ruby, and upon the front part of the crown is a square block-stone with Christian 5.s monogram in gold thread. The precious stones in the crown are supposedly re-used from earlier jewelry, like the saphire on the front of the crown, which is  traced back to Frederik 1. It was probably a gift to his father Christian 1. from the Duke of Milan in 1474. 

Christian 5.'s crown was latest used at Christian 8.'s anointment in 1840. The crown became redundant for ceremonial use, since the constitutional monarchy was introduced in Denmark in 1849, the absolute monarchy was abolished and the regent was no longer crowned or anointed. Christian 5.'s crown is still used at the monarch's death, where it is placed upon the coffin in the socalled castrum doloris. Last time the crown was used was at Frederik 9.'s death in 1972. 

The Queen's Crown. 
The queens crown was made for Christian 6.'s queen, Sophie Magdalene, by court jeweller Frederik Fabritius in 1731. It was used until 1840. The taffelsten (table-cut stones) origin supposedly from Sophie Amalie's crown from 1648. The new crown was made for Sophie Magdalene, because she denied to wear a crown, which had been worn by the hated Anna Sophie Reventlow, the second wife of Frederik 4.

Christian 4.s Crown

Christian 4.'s crown was made by goldsmith Dirich Dyring in Odense 1595-96. It is gold with enamel, taffelsten (table-cut stones) and pearls, total weight 2895 gr. The figures in the big points of the crown show the virtues of the good regent. In front, above the king's forehead and repeated above the king's ear, is a pelican which pecks its own chest to feed its chicks, originally a symbol of the death of Christ, but here it is the symbol of the king's obligation to protect his people with his own blood. Above the king's right hand is Fortitudo, the horsewoman upon a lion, a symbol of the king as a warlord, and above the left hand Justitia, the woman with sword and scale, a symbol of the king as the supreme judge; above the king's neck Caritas, the mother with a suckling child, a symbol of the king as the head of the church, his love for God and for his subjects.
Inside the points of the crown are the coat of arms of the king's kingdoms and countries; the crown is open, although the fashion prescribed a closed crown at that time. The Nordic Union-kings had used open crowns, and by following his forefathers example Christian 4. marked that he was the heir of a united North. The crown was used for the last time by Frederik 3. in 1648. The coat of arms were re-newed, and a bow was put on, which closed the crown. Frederik 3. even had to redeem the crown from a banker in Hamburg, where Christian 4. had pawned it in his late years. Christian 5. let the bow and closure remove and melt and re-used the gold and diamonds for the closed crown of the absolute monarch

The Crown Jewels.
The crown jewels history goes back to Christian 6.'s queen Sophie Magdalene. She decided in her will from 1746 that her jewels should not be inherited by one person, but always be available to the queen of the country. Her reasoning was that "there were so few jewels and no crown jewels at all in this royal house". Sophie Magdalene's crown jewels were among others dimond studded hairpins, earrings and pearl necklaces, but most of her original jewelry was remade by the following queens according to changing fashion. Today the crown jewels are primarily four big jewelry sets or garnitures : a brilliant garniture, an emerald garniture, a pearl-ruby garniture and a rose stone garniture. All four garnitures consists of necklaces, earrings and broches, and one has a tiara. (the emerald). The jewelry can be disassembled and be combined in various ways.

The four Garnitures.


 The Emerald garniture  (with tiara)

Set of emeralds and brilliants with diadem, necklace, brooch and earrings. Made in 1840 by C.M. Weisshaupt. The emeralds were originally a gift from Chr. VI to Sophie Magdalene in 1723.

The four garnitures have the form which Christian 8.'s queen Caroline Amalie gave them in 1840. With a re-use of Sophie Magdalene's original jewels, supplemented with extra precious stones, she had made four garnitures according to the fashion. Besides the four big garnitures the crown jewels consist of additions to the collection by later queens, fx Frederik 8.'s queen Lovisa's pearl "Bayadere", a very long pearl necklace with pearl tassels, and her three pearl bracelets with brilliant- and emerald-locks.

 The Brilliant garniture

Set of brilliants consisting of necklace with seven pendants, brooch in form of a floral bouquet, and earrings. Made in 1840 by C.M. Weisshaupt. The jewelry dates back to Queens Sophie Magdalene, Caroline Mathilde and Juliane Marie.

The crown jewels belong to the Danish State, but are available to the Danish queen, who usually wear them when it's galla time at the New-Year's Banquet or in connection to State Visits or other big events in the royal house. It is customary that the crown jewels stay in Denmark, which means that the queen cannot wear them on visits abroad. When the crown jewels are not in use, they are kept in the Skatkammeret (Treasury) in the cellar at Rosenborg slot and in "Guldburet" (the Golden Cage ) at the Amalienborg Museum. The Danish crown jewels are the only in the world, which are both on exhibition as museum pieces and used by the queen of the country.
The queen and the other women in the royal family have also a collection of private jewels for their own disposal, among these a ruby garniture from the Napoleonic period, which the crownprincess has used several times. The private jewels are not exhibited, but can be seen when they are used at big galla-events in Denmark and visits abroad. 

The Pearl-Ruby garniture

Set of pearls, rubies and diamonds with necklace, brooch and earrings. Made in 1840 by C.M. Weisshaupt. The pearl necklace belonged to Chr. V's consort Charlotte Amalie.

photo september 2008: grethe bachmann, Rosenborg slot, København.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Boletus edulis/ Karl Johan rørhat.

Boletus edulis, English names: penny bun, porcino or cep, is widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere across Europe, Asia and North America; it does not occur naturally in the Southern Hemisphere although it has been introduced to various countries there. It is a very popular mushroom in Scandinavia, where it grows in big numbers. It is known as the Karl Johan mushroom all over Scandinavia,  named after the Swedish king Karl XIV Johan, who liked this mushroom very much.

Karl Johan, stig bachmann nielsen, Naturplan Foto.
In Italy it is described as the wild mushroom par excellence. The Italian name is porcini, meaning "little pigs", but it is often called the king which underlines its status as the most outstanding of all mushrooms. In Toscana it is often cooked with thyme. In a simple dish like an omelet, this well-tasting mushroom shows to its best advantage. In Russia it is known as White Mushroom, meaning noble. In North America are found a number of species closely related to Boletus edulis. (see link below)

The English name porcino seems to derive from the Roman time in Britain, since the Italian name is porcini. I'll call it porcino in this small article. It is one of the most sought after mushrooms of Europe. Many boletus are edible, some with a good taste, others tasteless and others unpleasantly bitter. Boletus edulis is the best - edulis means eatable or edible. Porcino is considered one of the safest wild mushrooms to pick for the table as there are no poisonous species that closely resemble it. The mushroom has to be plucked while young, old porcinos get soft and swampy. Specimens should not be collected from potentially polluted or contaminated sites. Boletus edulis is known to be able to tolerate and even thrive on soil that is contaminated with toxic heavy metals.


The cap is greasy (especially after rain), brown to greybrown, it is often a little nubbly, it is about 10-15 cm diameter, but some porcinos might be 25 cm in diameter. On occassions it can reach 35 cm in diameter and 3 kilo in weight. Like other boletes it has tubes extending downward from the underside of the cap, rather than gills. The pore surface of the porcino's fruit body is whitish when young, but ages to greenish yellow. The stout stem is white or yellowish in colour,  about 5-10 cm tall and 2-4 cm thick, equipped with a fine white network, the brownish stem species have often only a clear white net at the top near the cap - the stem has usually a big bump lowest, which can reach high up on the stem, and this is a good indicator that it is a porcino, but other informations should be used for safety's sake. 

Boletus edulis lives in forest, but it is not choosy, it is found in both softwood and hardwood forests, often in boundaries between those two forest types. It is a common fungi in the Danish forests and can be harvested in large numbers. It is a rather big mushroom, only a few specimens are necessary for a meal. This mushroom is held in high regard in many cuisines. The flavour has been described as nutty and slightly meaty with a smooth creamy texture and a distinctive aroma, which reminds about the leaves in the forest, where it grows.The stem is good as raw snacks, and the cap can be cooked in many ways - sautéed with butter, ground into pasta, in soups and in many other dishes. The delicate nut-taste and the creamy meat its good for risotto and pasta-dishes and sauces and as a accompaniment to venison or a big steak. Porcini risotto is a traditional Italian autumn dish. All boletus give off much liquid during making, which has to be removed or used for a fond or soup.

Boletus edulis has not been successfully grown in cultivation, but is available fresh in autumn. It is sold fresh in markets in summer and autumn and dried or canned at other times of the year. It keeps its flavour after drying. Distributed worldwide to countries where they are not otherwise found.  It is low in fat and high in protein, vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre.

Løvenholm forest, stig bachmann nielsen Naturplan Foto

Confusion: Tylopilus félleus, fel meaning bile because of its bitterness, (DK: Galde Rørhat)  and Bolétus réticulatus, called Summer cep, (DK: Sommer Rørhat). Boletus edulis is often confused with this very bitter Tylopilus felleus, but can be distinguished by the reticulation on the stalk; in porcino it is a whitish net-like pattern on a brownish stalk, whereas it is a dark pattern on white in Tylopilus. The porcino has white pores, while the other has pink. If in doubt, tasting a tiny bit of flesh will yield a bitter taste.The Summer cep's flesh is less firm than other boletes. The most similar mushroom  may be the Devil's bolete (Boletus santana), which has a similar shape, but has a red stem and stains blue on bruising.

"I confess, that nothing frightens me more than the appearance of mushrooms on the table, especially in a small provincial town."
Alexandre Dumas, early 19th century.

5 good edible mushrooms:
Boletus edulis: Porcino, Cep, Penny Bun ; (DK: Karl Johan)   
Agarius campestri: Field champignon, in North America Meadow champignon, (DK: Mark champignon);
Cantharellus cibarius: Chanterelle, (DK: Almindelig kantarel);
Craterellus tubaeformis: Yellowfoot, Winter mushroom, Funnel chanterelle, ( DK: Tragtkantarel);
Craterellus cornucopioides: Trumpet of death, Black chanterel, Black trumpet, Horn of plenty,  (DK: Stor Trompetsvamp).

Source: Politikens Svampebog, Svampe i Skandinavien, Danmarks Fugle og Natur, Felthåndbogen,Wikipedia.  

I'll have to add this:
Whether or not Boletus edulis occurs in North America is up for debate, says this website from: Mushroom Experts Com.