Self-portrait, ca. 1825.
Oil on canvas, H. 0.29 m; W. 0.25 m
Exh. cat, Die Kopenhagener Schule, Meisterwerke Dänischer und Deutscher Malerei von 1770 bis 1850, Kunsthalle Kiel, 2005, p. 93.
Emilius Baerentzen was a pupil of the famous Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg in the Academy of Arts of Copenhagen. For his formation he travelled to Munich (1830), Paris (1831) and Hamburg (1834). Later, he was much in demand as a portraitist and had many high-ranking sitters in the worlds of art and politics. His dissatisfaction with the Royal Institute of Lithography in Copenhagen led him to found his own institute, Baerentzen & Co., in 1838. The business rapidly advanced to become the leading company of its kind in the country. His best-known publication is Dänisches Pantheon, published between 1842 and 1851, a portrait gallery of Danish national figures. At the same time Baerentzen was closely acquainted with the Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.
The present self-portrait, probably completed while he was at the Academy, shows an artist confident of his own wide-ranging talents and abilities. The flute points to Baerentzen’s musical talents, the skull, the surgical instruments and construction drawings to his scientific abilities and the books possibly to his legal training. Identification with his profession as a painter is not indicated. A number of years later he appears in a signed self-portrait in the guise of his new identity as a painter, portrayed at work in his studio, seated in front of a canvas. The physiognomic and stylistic similarities between the signed portrait and the present work are entirely consistent. In combination with the biographical data, they support a firm attribution. The provenance of the signed work is as follows: Consul General Johan Hansen, Copenhagen 1920s; Nineteenth Cent. Europ. Paintings , Sotheby’s, London 19.6.85, Lot 124, ill.; with Colnaghi, London; private collection, Germany.