We close our birthday celebration of Christen Købke (born 1810) with this witty picture, The View of the Plaster Cast Collection at Charlottenborg Palace, painted when the artist was just 20 years old.
Artists of that era spent much of their time drawing from plaster casts; in fact, in many academies, it was standard practice to draw from plaster casts for several years before moving into drawing from the live model. Artists thronged to ateliers and museums to stand before casts and draw from a variety of different angles, learning perspective, anatomy and proportion.
The casts here so scrupulous tidied by an attendant are of a sort to be found in most top-tier collections. (For example, in the upper right is the celebrated marble relief in the Louvre of Apollo, Artemis and Leto.) This witty picture mixes the exalted with the mundane – fabulous pieces of art dusted by a household servant.
As usual, Købke is in full command of light and color. Anyone looking at a plaster cast would say that it was ‘white,’ but, instead, look at the medley of colors Købke uses. He takes into account light, shadow, surrounding colors and time of day – yes, the casts are ‘white,’ but white reflecting the world in which they inhabit.
Købke also employs shadows with a clean and unfussy hand, while posing for himself another challenge in a difficult pose: our servant is leaning forward, reaching out, but also elevating his head. Købke makes the difficult look easy.