Thursday, 12 July 2018

Where Is... Life?



A very empty leaf in front of the golden girl.

An old photo of mine that I have drained of color to highlight the butterfly.
It is the only non-shiny part of the figurine and placed atop the leaf.
Was the Danish Prime Minister drunk at some formal dinner? Was the Crown Prince convinced he could jump the grandfather clock that same evening?

It certainly did not happen from daily wear and tear for the decorated doors to the room across which tourists are passing every day are as always in rather pristine condition.

No, something specific happened to the grandfather clock in Abildgaardsalen (The Abildgaard Room), which forms part of The Royal Reception Rooms at Christiansborg Palace in Copenhagen.

I am the minikin down to the left for measure.

Her emptied hands.
The stomach of the grandfather clock, which does look battered these days,
however they may be old wounds that have cracked open yet again.
Valdemar Andersen decorated every corner of The Abildgaard Room with the Danish flora, i.e. beetles, flies, wasps and robins. Bears and their like have been gone for centuries in Denmark.

Atop the grandfather clock he then added another insect, this time a sculpted blue butterfly perched on a leaf with a young girl protecting it with her hands. A sculpture on the fragility of life in the passing of time.

Which makes it all the sadder that the butterfly is gone.

Valdemar wondered back then, if its meaning would be understood?

It proved painfully significant to its artist. It was the last work by Valdemar Andersen, finished on New Year's Eve 1927/1928. Only two months later he was to be hospitalized, his leukemia diagnosed and his all too short, but immensely productive life would come to an early end.

One detail of the room, each square featuring its insect and inviting
in the light by mirroring the squares of the window frames. 
The figurine was first cast with the help of the architect and designer Poul Henningsen (PH) and then carved in mahogany and gold plated. Nothing was lacking in its creation.

The creation of the Royal Reception Rooms on the other hand had turned into a longwinded affair; everyone absolutely hating each other, or rather the head of the team of artists seemed to have been so troubled by the project he had taken upon himself that he hated them all. Everything was changed along the way, form and content alike. Such as the intended use of the rooms. Mirrors already done by Valdemar were never used. Everything was done and then rejected.

In the case of the Abildgaard Room it took eight years to complete and everything in it not created by Valdemar is an overdone eclectic mess rather like the icing on a birthday cake.

Yet, in the midst of everyone hissing at each other, the quiet Valdemar stuck to his original idea of depicting the fauna, portraying each insect at a time and framing it in light grey grotesques. The only thing about his part of the decoration, which reveals the passing of the time, is the hairstyle of the sculptured girl in the fashion of the late 1920'ies.

Her protecting the frailty of life was an exquisite final artistic statement.

Now the blue butterfly is gone.

Life.... is gone...?


Detail of one of Valdemar's decorated doors leading to the room.



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