This portrait of Købke’s younger brother in his seaman’s uniform was painted soon before the artist left Copenhagen for a sojourn in Italy. It is an incisive likeness, remarkable for its psychological intensity. Købke, who is widely regarded as the greatest Danish painter to emerge from the Copenhagen Academy of Fine Arts, brought a distinctive clarity and luminosity to the naturalist aesthetic of his teacher, Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg.
Mrs. L. Gjern; Mrs. L. Nutzhorn (by 1915–at least 1927); Anton Boyer, Copenhagen (by 1953–d. 1957); his daughter (until 1990; sale, Kunsthallen Kunstauktioner, Copenhagen, April 25–26, 1990, no. 122, for DKK 330,000 to Katz); [Daniel Katz and Timothy Bathurst, London, 1990; sold to MMA]
Copenhagen. Kunstforeningen. "Fortegnelse over Christen Købkes Malerier," 1912, no. 133.
Copenhagen. Kunstforeningen. "Christen Købke," January 31–February 28, 1953, no. 73 (as "Kommandør Købke som ung officer, Købkes broder" [Commander Købke as a young officer, Købke's brother], about 1838?, lent by Anton Boyer).
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "The Golden Age of Danish Painting," October 24, 1993–January 2,1994, no. 73.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Golden Age of Danish Painting," February 13–April 24, 1994, no. 73.
Copenhagen. Statens Museum for Kunst. "Danish Golden Age Painting - The American Exhibition," May 21–August 7, 1994, no catalogue.
Copenhagen. Statens Museum for Kunst. "Christen Købke 1810–1848," February 10–May 5, 1996, no. 135.
Mario Krohn. Maleren Christen Købkes Arbejder. Copenhagen, 1915, p. 68, no. 135, as "Kommandør Købke som ung Officer," about 1838?, belonging to Fru. L. Nutzhorn; lists no. 136, a portrait of the sitter's wife Jacobine also belonging to Nutzhorn as its pendant [sale, Kunsthallen Kunstauktioner, Copenhagen, April 25, 1990, no. 123].
Ole Lisberg Jensen. Letter to Gretchen Wold. January 21, 1991, writes that the sitter served in the Royal Danish Navy from 1826 to 1867 and wears an officer's uniform; adds that at the time the portrait was probably painted, around 1838–40, he held the rank of second lieutenant.
Everett Fahy. "Selected Acquisitions of European Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987–1991." Burlington Magazine 133 (November 1991), p. 807, colorpl. XI.
Sanford Schwartz. Christen Købke. New York, 1992, p. 3, colorpl. 60.
Kasper Monrad. The Golden Age of Danish Painting. Exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 168–69, no. 73, ill. (color), mentions the unfinished pendant of the sitter's wife, Jacobine (private collection), and states that the MMA picture must have been rolled up before the paint was completely dry; attributes both of these facts to Købke's imminent departure for Italy.
Danish Golden Age Painting - The American Exhibition. Exh. brochure, Statens Museum for Kunst. Copenhagen, 1994, ill. (color).
Kasper Monrad. "Collections Abroad." The Golden Age of Danish Painting. Copenhagen, 1994, p. 40, ill. (color).
Christen Købke, 1810–1848. Ed. Hans Edvard Nørregård-Nielsen and Kasper Monrad. Exh. cat., Statens Museum for Kunst. Copenhagen, 1996, pp. 75, 369–70, no. 135, fig. 47 (color).
The sitter was the seventh of eleven children, of which the artist was the fifth. In 1843 he married his cousin, Jacobine Margrethe Feilberg (1817–1887), and they had seven children. He made his career as an officer in the Royal Danish Navy, and in this painting, of about 1838, he is depicted as a second lieutenant. He took part in the war between Denmark and Germany in 1848–50, and again in 1864. In 1860 he was a captain on the Royal Danish family's yacht, the Slesvig. He retired from active duty in 1867 with the rank of commander.
Mario Krohn [see Ref. 1915] lists as a pendant to this picture a portrait of the sitter's wife (Krohn no. 136; sale, Kunsthallen Kunstauktioner, Copenhagen, April 25, 1990, no. 123). Krohn also includes an earlier portrait of the sitter as a cadet, dated 1828 (Krohn no. 8).