Nicolai Abildgaard,King Christian I Proclaiming Holstien a Duchy, 1780. Oil on canvas, 308 x 197 cm.

Nicolai Abildgaard,King Christian I Proclaiming Holstien a Duchy, 1780. Oil on canvas, 308 x 197 cm.

King Christian I Proclaiming Holstien a Duchy, 1780

The first commission
In June of 1778, Abildgaard received his first commission for decoration work for the Great Hall at Christiansborg Palace. Here, the glorification of the Oldenburg dynasty of Danish monarchs was opened with a depiction of its founder, Christian I.

The Motif
Abildgaard chose to show an allegorical rendition of the moment when the king has received permission from the German-Roman emperor to elevate Holstein from the status of a county to a duchy in 1474. In the foreground we see a woman, Holstein personified, receiving the ducal crown from the king after first having laid down the county crown. Behind her are Delenhorst and Oldenborg. The latter can be identified by the crest with its two red bars against a yellow ground (escutcheon Or two bars Gules), which is still featured in the Danish royal coat of arms.

10 paintings - 13 kings
The artist only had ten fields in which to depict the thirteen kings of the line, including Christian VII and Abildgaard solved this problem by having Christian I by flanked by his two sons Hans and Frederik, who both succeeded him on the throne.

From studies to the painting
Abildgaard had been thorough in his preliminary studies, and indeed the final result reflects this. King Christian VII was pleased, but nevertheless let the professors Wiedewelt, Preisler, and Mandelberg examine the study, and when they announced their agreement in September, work on the final work could commence. In the springtime of 1780 the painting was complete and was one of the first to be installed in the Great Hall. When the palace was ravaged by fire in 1794, this work was one of the only three paintings from the Great Hall to be rescued from the flames.

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