Masters of Mobility


13.3 The Gottorf Peace Party and its Artistic Connections

In terms of its huge size and multitude of (complex) allegorical themes this painting, one of the earliest works of Ovens for Duke Frederick III, Gottorf peace party. The Gottorf ducal family in a peace allegory, probably from 1652 was new in the history of art in the duchy [10].1 The duke, wearing a Roman costume, is seated on a throne. His gorget reminds of portraits by Rembrandt and his circle. Ovens will have studied a similar portrait historié in the Dutch Republic. Next to Frederick III stands his wife Maria Elisabeth. Her dress resembles the clothes on the fashionable portraits of Van Dyck. The sons and daughters stand separately on both sides of the ducal couple. The duchess points at her daughters Sophie Auguste and Maria Elisabeth in the middle of the event. They allegorically represent Minerva and Pax, or Peace. Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and war, wears antique drapery, a feathered helmet, and holds a lance. She makes one think of Allegory on the Republic from 1644/45 by Jacob Adriaensz. Backer (1608/09-1651) [11].2

Opposing war and peace in relation to prosperity was a favorite theme in the 17th century, especially in Southern Netherlands painting. Gottorf peace party shows that Ovens brought a new, modern style to the court and introduced the high baroque in Northern German painting. With Ovens, Frederick III was able to engage an artist with knowledge of the achievements of contemporary painting in the Low Countries. Ovens had the technical capability to convincingly depict and unite allegorical figures with real persons, and to create a realistic atmosphere through his rendering of light. A comparison with Portrait of Duke Frederick III of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf with his family and some courtiers in the garden of Castle Gottorf from circa 1639 [12] by Julius Strachen (died 1648), up to a certain extent the precursor of Ovens’ Gottorf peace party, makes clear that he attempts to elevate the ducal couple by depicting them in a gate-like architecture and having them blessed by a beam of an angel, but that the character of his work is rather stiff.3

Jürgen Ovens
Gottorf peace party. The Gottorf ducal family in a peace allegory, probably 1652
Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, inv./ NMGrh 452

Jacob Adriaensz. Backer
Allegory on the Republic, c. 1644-1645
Oranienburg, Schlossmuseum Oranienburg

Julius Strachen
Portrait of Duke Frederick III of Schleswig-Holstein Gottorf with his family and some courtiers in the garden of Castle Gottorf, c. 1639
Eutin, Stiftung Schloss Eutin, inv./ 4221

Ovens’ composition is almost a mirror image of King Christian IV as mediator in the Thirty Years' War by Adriaen van de Venne (1589-1662) from circa 1643 [13].4 Ovens could have studied the painting in the Dutch Republic or in the Danish port city of Glückstadt (nowadays located in Schleswig-Holstein).5 Just like Frederick III, the Danish King Christian IV is seated on a throne and surrounded by his family. Pietas leads Pax, a young maiden in a light dress, to the monarch, who is being advised by Justice; Ovens painted this allegorical figure on top of a column in the far right of his picture.6 The countries involved in the Thirty Years War – identifiable by their banners on the left side – patiently await Christian IV’s peace-bringing intervention. Evidently, Ovens was inspired by the large amount of putti with heraldic weapons and crowns that fly over the scene.

A remarkable similarity exists with regard to the monochrome painting of Van de Venne and the colours of Ovens’ small Gottorf peace party [14] from 1652, which is almost an exact copy of his large work.7 It does not seem likely, however, that Ovens tried to introduce a style to Gottorf which was inspired by Van de Venne. For Ovens, painting in yellow, brown and ochre tones was an exception, whereas Van de Venne executed hundreds of such works.

Adriaen van de Venne
King Christian IV as mediator in the Thirty Years' War, c. 1643
Copenhagen, The Royal Danish Collection - Rosenborg Castle, inv./ 7.12

Jürgen Ovens
Gottorf peace party. The Gottorf ducal family in a peace allegory, dated 1652
Hillerød, The National Museum of History Frederiksborg Castle, inv./ A 4355

Jan Lievens
Allegory of Peace, dated 1652
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, inv./ SK-A-612

Pax being crowned by Minerva is also in the centre of the composition in the Allegory of Peace by Jan Lievens (1607-1674) [15], painted in 1652 as well.8 The fruits of peace are shown in both pictures. The greatest similarity can be found in the bottom right: a lying Mars and a nearby putto confirming his defeat by tapping on a war drum. As far as can be ascertained, Ovens was in Schleswig-Holstein in 1652, but he might have seen Lievens’ composition in its formative stages before he left Holland in 1651. Perhaps both artists used a (now unknown) common example.9

The facial expression of Mars in the small Gottorf peace party could have been derived from that of the lying Fury at the bottom of the Triumph of Frederik Hendrik from 1652 by Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678) in the Oranjezaal in Huis ten Bosch near The Hague [16].10 Jordaens’ picture might also have served Ovens as an example of the glorification of a ruler in the context of peace, and the format of the large Gottorf peace party is comparable with some of the paintings in the Oranjezaal.11 During the reign of duke Christian Albrecht, Ovens himself would realize a cycle, filling a whole room, that glorified Gottorf and its rulers.

Jacques Jordaens
The Triumph of Frederik Hendrik, dated 1652
The Hague, Paleis Huis ten Bosch (Oranjezaal)


1 Larsson 1989, p. 166, fig. 2. See also Drees 1997, p. 248; Köster 2015, p. 8-11; Köster 2017, p. 62-72, figs. 43-47, p. 388, G142, ill.

2 Canvas, 162.3 x 115.8 cm, Schloß Oranienburg, Stiftung Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten, GK I 3073; B. van den Boogert in Van den Brink/Van der Veen 2008, p. 146-147, no. 27, ill.

3 Larsson 1989, p. 166; Köster 2017, p. 55-56, fig. 31.

4 De Bie 1661-1662, p. 234; Gerson 1942/1983, p. 459: ‘Already in De Bie, one can read that Adriaen van de Venne painted an allegory on Christian IV as peacemaker’; Larsson 1989, p. 166; Bencard 1998-1999, p. 587-588; Buijsen 2018, p. 260, 276, note 177, p. 283, fig. 3.75 on p. 328.

5 According to De Bie 1661-1662, p. 234, the painting was to be seen in ‘Gulck Stadt’ (Glückstadt). See also Drees 1997, p. 249. Bencard 1998-1999, p. 588 states that the picture was sent over in 1643, but he does not mention Glückstadt.

6 Köster 2017, p. 68-69 notes that Van de Venne did not include an allegorical figure of Justice. The female next to king Christian IV, however, holds a rod as a sign of her authority; the banderol at her feet shows the word JUSTITIA.

7 According to Köster 2017, p. 69-71 this work is an exact replica of the large version, except for the colours, the facial expression of Mars at the bottom and a self-portrait of Ovens in the left back side. In my opinion, however, the facial traits of that man are not clearly visible and thus cannot be considered as Ovens’ likeness. There are more differences to be noticed between the two paintings: the small work lacks a putto beneath the column with the figure of Justice and the shields being held by the putti in the sky are blank instead of bearing the coat of arms of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf and Saxony. Furthermore, the shape of the clouds, especially near the putti, differs. The face of a figure standing at the left back of the large Gottorf peace party, next to the sons of the ducal couple, is damaged and therefore cannot be identified as a self-portrait of Ovens. See Köster 2017, p. 63-64. An inspiration for a possible self-portrait could have been the fifth figure at the left of the Allegory of King Christian IV as Peace Mediator [13], which might be Van de Venne himself (compare with Portrait of Adriaen Pietersz. van de Venne, Daniël van den Bremden after Adriaen Pietersz. van de Venne, 1634, RKDimages 234873). See Buijsen 2018, p. 260, 276, note 179.

8 Kaulbach 1998-1999, p. 596 and Köster 2017, p. 69 claim without proof that Louise Henriette of Orange-Nassau (1627-1667), the daughter of stadtholder Frederick Henry (1584-1647) and Amalia of Solms-Braunfels (1602-1675), plays the role of Pax. Although the model resembles Louise Henriette, the idealized nature of her features makes the identification far from certain. See L. DeWitt in Wheelock et al. 2008-2009, p. 174-175, no. 49, ill.

9 Drees 1997, p. 248-249; Köster 2015, p. 11; Larsen 2017, p. 183; Köster 2017, p. 69.

10 Van Eikema Hommes/Kolfin 2013, p. 68, 156-157, no. 32, ill.; M. van Eikema Hommes et al. in Franken/Lankester et al. 2015, no. 32 (accessed 10 December 2018); Köster 2017, p. 69-70.

11 It will be clear that for the details of the large Gottorf peace party, Ovens could draw from a stock of examples he saw in the Dutch Republic. Contemporary art theory prescribed that ‘a wise man should borrow the best from each other artist’. See Weststeijn 2008, p. 128. The court servant of Frederick III, Adam Olearius (1599-1671), might, however, have been the intellectual force who determined the symbolical and allegorical contents of the sizeable painting. See Köster 2017, p. 73.

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