11482 “KOMEDIEN” BY CHRISTEN DALSGAARD (1827–1907) Danish. Signed and Dated 1846. Measurements: Framed: Width: 25 1/4 (64 cm); Height: 33 1/2″ (85 cm); Sight Size: Width: 19 1/4″ (48.8 cm); Height: 27 1/2″ (69.8 cm).
Oil on canvas.
Signed at upper right:
C. Dalsgaard 1846
The present painting depicts a herm representing the personification of Comedy. The original marble bust was discovered at Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli in 1735 by its then owner, Giuseppe Fede, along with its pendant bust, Tragedy (figure 1). According to the Italian archaeologist Giovanni Battista Visconti (1722-1784), the busts were recovered near the entrance to the Greek Theatre, a small oval plan theatre set amongst a garden within the emperor’s residential complex. Both sculptures are housed today in the Vatican Museums in the Sala Rotunda of the Museo Pio-Clementino.
The painting of Comedy is signed and dated 1846 by the significant Danish artist Christen Dalsgaard (1827-1907). Dalsgaard was a Golden Age genre painter whose works primarily focused on landscapes and the daily life of the peasantry. He studied at the Copenhagen Academy under Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg and Martinus Rørbye and first exhibited at Charlottenborg in 1847. In 1872 Dalsgaard was made a member of the Copenhagen Academy of Fine Arts, was knighted in 1879, and received the title of professor in 1892. His masterpiece is considered to be Mormons Visit a Country Carpenter of 1856 (today in the National Gallery of Denmark), which displays aspects of the exquisite realism and light play also found in the present picture.
The painting was executed toward the end of Dalsgaard’s tenure as a student at the Academy, likely as an exercise to demonstrate mastery of realism and still life painting. It was made after a copy of the herm, previously in the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art’s Casting Collection, and now lost. It’s counterpart for Tragedy, however, remains in the collection (Inventory No. DEP428).