RØRBYE, Martinus
(b. 1803, Drammen, d. 1848, København)

View from the Artist's Window

c. 1825
Oil on canvas, 38 x 30 cm
Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

This view was painted from the drawing-room window of the painter's childhood home.

During the Romantic era, open windows and ships on the sea became popular themes with symbolic undertones. On the windowsill, flowers in different stages of growth reflect the stages of human life. Out in the harbour the flowers are matched by three warships: the middle ship is still under construction, the right one has no rigging, leaving only the ship on the left seaworthy.

For many Romantics, their chosen image of creative Genius was the plant, germinating from its seed in its own cycle of life. It obeyed natural law, and could be stunted only by outside intervention. In this painting plants themselves create a portrait of the painter. On a windowsill overlooking Copenhagen harbour stands an array of pots whose contents represent both his life and his art - an unsprouted seed, a protected cutting, a young agave, a flourishing hydrangea and a withered amaranth - together with casts of a child's and an adult's foot, and a sketchbook whose pages are waiting to be filled. A captive bird hangs in its cage above, doubtless yearning for its freedom. A mirror in the window is placed too high to reflect the artist, but his presence is everywhere in the work's symbolic programme.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.