Loeb Danish Ardt Collection - page 42

philosopher’s figure from Raphael’s
The School of Athens
in the Vatican. Precisely at the time of Abildgaard,
when Enlightenment philosophy was at its peak, the moral attitudes of the Cynics had achieved a renewed
The motif: Abildgaard painted Alexander’s meeting with Diogenes on several later occasions; two, per-
haps three, variants by him are known in three di
erent formats. The artist’s widow owned one of them,
and she showed the painting at the exhibitions of Abildgaard’s works in Copenhagen in
, as
“original painting”) and in
as “completed painting”), i.e. by the artist. This must be identical to
the one that was auctioned in
after her death (no.
). The dimensions of this are given as
slightly narrower than the painting in the Loeb collection.
The largest version was shown in the Abildgaard exhibition in
at the Copenhagen Art Society as
, (
in. or
cm), then owned by the composer Hakon Schmedes, the present owner
unknown. A photograph of it
reproduces a composition resembling the Loeb collection picture, but this
painting is so clumsy that it is not likely to have been painted by Abildgaard himself. It is surprising that the
organiser of the exhibition, Leo Swane, subsequently Director of Statens Museum for Kunst, included it at
all, but he suggests later that it must have been a copy.
In addition, the upright variant of the motif (
in. x
in., or
cm, signed), which includes only the main figures, was also shown in the
bition as no.
. There Alexander is seen from behind wearing a toga-like costume, while Diogenes is seen
from the front, half-naked in a draped garment, sitting by two Doric columns and once more with Socrates’
features. It is assumed to be the last of the three variants and is painted in a rather sketch-like fashion. Nord-
jyllands Kunstmuseum at Aalborg acquired it as a donation in
The painting in the Loeb collection is still well preserved with its original canvas, stretcher and nails
from the
th century. It must be considered a replica of the signed painting that was in the Arne Bruun Ras-
mussen auction no.
, lot
, the dimensions of which are very close to this one, (
in., or
cm), present owner unknown. In a studio like Abildgaard’s it was common practice in the
th century
for several copies of a picture to be painted. Judging by a black-and-white photograph, the signed version
and this replica are indistinguishable from each other.
This variant of the motif in the Loeb collection is undoubtedly the best of those painted by Abildgaard.
There is such expressiveness in the figures’ gestures that the artist has even succeeded in giving expression
to the irony in the Cynic’s reply to the king. The way in which Alexander’s body is turned and the position
and details of the hands, especially the bright red of the fingers, are typical of Abildgaard and are found in
others of his paintings. An assured earlier provenance is not known, nor is there any documentation to
confirm the date of the painting, which, with reservations, is judged to be the end of the
’s (Bente Skov-
gaard) or the
’s (Patrick Kragelund).
This painting or the signed version is reproduced in the Danish
national encyclopaedia,
Den Store Danske Encyklopædi
, Vol.
, Copenhagen
, p.
as an illustration to the
article on Diogenes.
P. Kragelund,
, p.
. The artist’s copy is preserved in the Royal Danish Library, Danish National Art Library.
In the Royal Danish Library, Danish National Art Library.
In his article “Bemærkninger om Abildgaard som Maler” (“Remarks on Abildgaard as a Painter”) in
Kunstmuseets Aarsskrift XXIV
, p.
I am grateful to Bente Skovgaard, Patrick Kragelund and Charlotte Christensen for comments, advice and guidance in my work with this
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