Martinus Rørbye (1803-48), The Prison of Copenhagen, 1831
During the years where Rørbye concluded his time at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, he did large numbers of drawn landscapes and views of Copenhagen and its environs, as well as paintings showing scenes of street life in the Danish capital.
Familiar types from everyday life
The works, which proved very popular with buyers, were characterised by their panoply of familiar types drawn from everyday life and by their moralising allusions, making them something other than simple snapshots of life.
The architectural surroundings
The street scene from the Nytorv in Copenhagen strikes an edifying note even with its architectural surroundings. C.F. Hansen’s prison is a principal piece of Golden Age architecture. It is “eloquent” architecture with a stern look intended to instil fear of the consequences of any crime.
The painting's figures
In the background a young man is asking an older moneylender for a loan, while another young man points an admonitory finger to the debtor’s prison behind him. To the left of the arched doorway the transaction between the old and young women refers to the scales of Justice; the young dandy in the middle of the picture, his hand in his bulging pocket, sends lusty glances at the young mother to the right.
The small signs of the characters’ less than appealing traits are commented on by the old man in the foreground – a misanthrope who does not even put out his light in broad daylight.