11315 TWO VERY RARE WATERCOLOR DEPICTIONS OF THE GREENLAND INUIT HUNTERS POQ AND QIPEROQ DURING A MISSIONARY TOUR OF COPENHAGEN CIRCA 1724 Danish School. Eighteenth Century. Measurements: Two hunters- Framed: Width: 28 1/2″ (71.8 cm); Height: 22 1/2″ (57.2 cm); Sight Size: Width: 19.5″ (49.5 cm); Height: 14″ (35.6 cm). Kayak-Framed: Width: 27″(68.6); Height: 21 […]
Watercolor on paper.
Old U.S. Collection
The two men depicted in the first watercolor drawing are the Inuit hunters Poq and Qiperoq, the first Inuit from West Greenland to visit Europe by their own free will in 1724.
This visit took place three years after the missionary Hans Egede arrived in Greenland. The young priest curate from Northern Norway had developed an enthusiasm for missionary work during his student days in Copenhagen; he intended to go to Greenland to find the Norwegian Viking settlements and, assuming they were still catholic, convert them to the Protestant faith. In 1719 he was able to present his plans to King Frederick IV in Copenhagen and in 1720-21, with the help of funding from merchants, the king and the church, succeeded in establishing the Bergen Greenland Company (1721-27), whose task was to renew the trade with Greenland. Egede did not find any Viking descendants, but, fired by missionary zeal, still spent 15 years in the country working relentlessly among the Inuit, learning their language, collecting a wealth of information, and publishing several “detailed and impressively accurate accounts” of Greenland’s topography, history, language and culture.1
The voyage of Poq (29 years of age) and Qiperoq (24 years old) to Copenhagen was part of a tour organized by the company Egede had founded, to raise money for the Mission. “This resulted in a grand ‘Greenlandic cavalcade,’ which was provided with much pageantry on the waterways of Copenhagen so that a wider slice of the city’s population could marvel and enjoy the exotic sight of the Inuit shooting darts at ducks from their kayaks.”2
The composition of the present work relates to a painting in oil by Bernhard Grodtschilling commissioned by the Bergen Greenland Company on the occasion of Poq and Qiperoq’s visit (figure 1). That oil painting was on display at the “Kunstkammeret” (The Danish Royal Chambers of Arts) from 1724 until 1728, when it was sold to the Danish King Frederick IV by Grodtschilling. At this date the Kunstkammer was primarily open to Students of the Arts and people of the high society by request and a fee of one or two “Rigsdaler” to be paid to the keeper of Kunstkammeret. Other variants of Grodtschilling’s composition were also made.
In Grodtschilling’s painting Qiperoq and Poq are standing in front of the Hope Island landscape, where Egede built the first Mission Station. They are equipped with bow and arrow, and a bird-hunting harpoon, respectively. The stance of the hunters in the present watercolor is nearly the same but the landscape background has been omitted as well as the ducks in the hand of Poq, and their physiognomy is somewhat varied.
With regard to the second painting of the kayak, it may have been inspired by a series of hand-colored woodcuts of “The Grand Procession” made in remembrance of Qiperoq and Poq’s performance in Copenhagen on November 9th 1724 (figure 2). The position of Qiperoq in the kayak and the hunting implements with which he is equipped in the watercolor resembles the 1724 woodcuts and could thus be seen as a more detailed version.
The paper on which the watercolors are painted bears the watermark J. Honig & Zoonen (1738-1837). According to several references this particular mark is probably datable to the years 1738-1787.3
- Fjågesund, Peter. The Dream of the North: A Cultural History to 1920. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2014. 160.
- Nuttall, Mark. Encyclopedia of the Arctic. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2012. 545.
- Prange, Peter. Deutsche Zeichnungen 1450-1800. Köln: Böhlau Köln, 2007. Catalog Nos. 347, 441, 569, 579, 936.