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Marina Piccola on Capri
  • Artist Christen Köbke (Danish, 1810 - 1848)
  • TitleMarina Piccola on Capri
  • Dating 1839 - 1840
  • Technique/MaterialOil on paper
  • Dimensions38 x 50,5 cm
  • AcquisitionPurchase, 1974
  • CategoryOil painting
  • Inventory NumberGKM 1933
  • Display StatusNot shown in the museum
Signatures etc.
Exhibition History
Christen Købke [...] often found his subjects in his immediate vicinity. His small paintings of Kastellet, Copenhagen’s northern defences, where he lived and where his father was a baker, have an intriguing freshness and directness—as if he was looking at it for the first time—while his portraits present subtle characterizations of his models.

In the autumn of 1838, he finally set off for Italy. From Rome he went the following spring to the Naples area, which had become a popular destination early in the century thanks to the excavations of Pompeii and the rediscovery of the Blue Grotto on Capri. With Constantin Hansen, Købke spent the autumn of 1839 on the magical island. He kept mostly to the Marina Piccola, on the southern side of the island.

Hans Christian Andersen had been there a few years earlier, and wrote of the view towards Monte Castiglione and La Punta Tragara that »from down by the surf we see up to the sky, off along the coast, only sheer cliffs, the sirens’ rocky fortress.« Købke too was enthused by the juxtaposition of the steep limestone cliffs and the sea. He drew the view looking eastwards and both drew and painted a number of detailed studies, including several paintings of the waves hitting the rocks.
The Museum’s study of the view in its entirety was executed at a tremendous pace on the spot, in the morning light. Freely, spontaneously, he painted the transparent sky with the light cirrus clouds drifting out over the sea, the frothy waves, and the light striking the sharp-edged rocks and reflecting into the shadows. The brushwork rises to a crescendo in the blocks in the foreground. Here we also find a prime example of the artist’s ability to capture the moment: a wave is on the point of striking a boulder on the shore, having just washed over a small rock a little further out. The study in the Gothenburg Museum of Art was to be his most dynamic painting.

The purpose of all the studies was that they could be used later in finished paintings. When Købke returned home, he painted some large canvases with motifs from the island. The one most reminiscent of the Gothenburg study was instrumental in his appointment as an »agrée«, or prospective fellow of the Academy. When he later filed a reception piece with the same motif, he failed to become a full fellow. He had to paint with the scene before his eyes—he could not recreate the experience of Marina Piccola.

Björn Fredlund from The Collection Gothenburg Museum of Art, Gothenburg 2014