Saturday, 19 December 2009

Copenhagen Foundations

As a complete coincidence this post is about Copenhagen, for personal reasons (I promised my brother I would do it) and because it is about a sculpture/fountain that I find impressive, rather than for any long-standing hangup about meetings about climate change.

As with almost all capital cities across the world, Copenhagen has a good number of significant sculptures and monuments. The most iconic, of course, is the Little Mermaid, who sits elegantly on a small rock in Oresond, just on the edge of central Copenhagen. She was commissioned by Carlsberg chief executive Carl Jacobsen in 1909, from Edward Eriksen and for such a tiny statue receives very large numbers of visitors. Just along the quay stands a less ethereal modern mermaid, who stands outside the tourist office with jutting chest confusing the occasional simple-minded tourist.

In the other direction lies an altogether more impressive sculptural fountain, also commissioned by Carlsburg, for their 50th anniversary (1897), with the fountains in working order in 1908. This fountain lies next to the Citadel and represents the traditional myth of the foundation of the city of Copenhagen. The goddess Gefjon was challenged by the king Gylfi to plough as much land as she could in one night. All the land that she ploughed would be hers. Previously she had borne four sons and she changed them into oxen, attached them to a plough, and between them they ploughed the land area that now makes up the island in Copenhagen known as Zealand. The sculptor was Anders Bundgaard, a Dane who studied in Italy and returned to Denmark in time to create this powerful representation of determination and devotion. The water in the fountain may not be a major firework display, but the power of the surge through the nostrils of the oxen and the movement implied by the jets next to the wheels of the cart carrying the goddess is very effective. I love the elegance and poignancy of the Little Mermaid, but for sheer power of will and demonstrable strength, I have to confess to a preference for the Gefion Fountain (Gefionspringvandet in Danish).

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