0119 Nathanson, Eckersberg's Moses, and Danish Haskalah ('Reformed Judaism')

  • Patrick Kragelund (Author)
    Danmarks Kunstbibliotek (The Danish National Art Library), Copenhagen, Denmark

    Patrick Kragelund is director of the Danish National Art Library (e-mail pkr@kunstbib.dk). He is a ph.d. in classics (Copenhagen, 1982); was assistant director at the Danish Academy in Rome (1984-90), then worked at the University of Aarhus before becoming a librarian in 1998; his "Habilitation", Abildgaard - kunstneren blandt oprørerne (1999), uses the library of the artist as a gateway back into the enigmatic world of his imagery. His research focuses on history of collections, on Danish art of the 17th and 18th centuries and (returning to ph.d. issues) on Roman Historical Drama, from Antiquity to the Romantics (title of forthcoming monograph).

    Former RIHA Journal local editor of The Danish National Art Library, Copenhagen

Identifiers (Article)


Among the patrons of the young C. W. Eckersberg (1783-1853), the Jewish merchant M. L. Nathanson (1780-1868) was the most important. A key figure in the process eventually leading to the Danish Jews obtaining complete legal and civic parity (1849), Nathanson can be shown to have pioneered art patronage as a platform for social and cultural integration. His commissions for patriotic "Galleries" (imitating Boydell's British Shakespeare Gallery) and for family portraits illustrate his efforts to give art a new role in this process. Hitherto ignored, so does his commission for a monumental Moses Crossing the Red Sea – a work that in its iconography, as developed by Eckersberg between 1812 and 1817, represents a remarkable fusion of Jewish, Greco-Roman and Christian elements that combined with overt loans from Raphael and Giovanni Donducci gives it a unique place in Eckersberg's oeuvre.


History painting, Portraits, Patriotic galleries, Haskalah, Jewish integration, Jewish assimilation, Moses iconography, Danish art scene