Masters of Mobility


8. Cornelis van Mander (1611-1657) : Sculptor at the Court of Friedrich III von Holstein-Gottorf, and his Network

Juliette Roding

In this paper I will discuss the brief career of sculptor Cornelis van Mander (1611-1657), who is hardly known among art historians.1 Van Mander contributed to the major project of Friedrich III von Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf (1597-1659) [1], who – between 1635 and his death – transformed the castle of Gottorf and its gardens into a major European centre of culture and learning.2

I first came across the sculptor’s name when I studied his two-years-older brother, Karel van Mander III (1609-1670) [2], court painter to Christian IV and Frederik III of Denmark, collector, and keeper of the royal collections.3 Although it must be said that Cornelis, who died at the age of 46, artistically and socially never attained the same status as his older brother, he is nonetheless an interesting case of an immigrant artist who used his entrepreneurship and his marriage to become a court artist.

Cornelis van Mander was born, according to the Family Bible of the Van Mander family that is kept in the Royal Library in Copenhagen, on the 3 October 1611, in Delft. He was the second son of tapestry designer Karel van Mander II and Cornelia van Rooswijck, and a grandson of Karel van Mander I, author of the well-known Schilder-boeck.4

After his father’s sudden death in 1623, his mother Cornelia went to Copenhagen, partly to ask Christian IV for the rather huge sum of money he owed her for the series of tapestries and other work that her husband had produced for the decoration of Frederiksborg Castle. Around 1626 Cornelia settled definitively in Copenhagen, where she started - shortly before 1633 - a grocer’s shop opposite the old Copenhagen Castle. She supplied the court and the Copenhagen citizens with a wide range of products and became a wealthy merchant.5

It is clear that from the beginning the King himself supported the widow and her children very well. Karel van Mander III painted his first portrait of Christian IV in 1630. In 1634 he received an important commission: the designs for a court ballet for the wedding of the Prince Elect in 1634, when he was 25 years old. The following year he went on a study tour to Italy funded by a grant from the King.6

We do not know for sure, however, whether the oldest two children followed their mother to Denmark or whether they stayed behind in the Dutch Republic for their education. We do not know either whether Cornelis, who is sometimes called ‘Cornelio’ in the archives, like his brother spent some time in Italy. At the time Cornelis must have started his education, c. 1623, there were a few good sculptors in Denmark, the most important being Hans van Steenwinckel II (1587-1639), Herman Rolfinck (after 1599-1634/35) and Gert Barchmand (after 1621- before 1644).7 One could also think of Henni Heidtrider, who worked from 1612 onwards for the counts of Gottorf, amongst others in Husum and Kiel.8

The style that Cornelis developed, especially for architectonic features like frames for portals, doors and windows, reflects the ‘auricular style’ (in Dutch: kwabstijl, in Danish: brusbarok, in German: Knorpelbarock) that was extremely popular in Northern Europe in the first half of the 17th century, especially with artists in the field of the decorative arts, who combined elements derived from human bone structure (Ohrmuschel), the plant and mineral world, conches and shells, and the smooth forms of putti and angels, but also of marine animals like dolphins, to achieve lively compositions. The treatises of Hans Vredeman de Vries, with many examples of decorative masks and rolwerk, and that of Wendel Dietterlin were also an important source of inspiration.

Cover image
after Cornelis van Mander
Hercules in a fight with Hydra, 1995/1997
Schloss Gottorf, Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Schloss Gottorf

Pieter de Jode (II) after Anselm van Hulle
Portrait of Frederick III, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp (1597-1659), after 1653
The Hague, Peace Palace Library

Karel van Mander (III)
Self-portrait with his wife Maria Fern and his mother Cornelia Rooswijck, c. 1656
Copenhagen, SMK - National Gallery of Denmark, inv./ KMS3814


1 Thieme Becker 1907-1950, vol. 23 (1929), p. 606 [I. Buhl]. It was Harry Schmidt who assembled archival material on Cornelis van Mander in the archives of Schleswig and Copenhagen. Schmidt 1916; Schmidt 1916-1917, on Cornelis van Mander: p. 276ff; Schmidt 1917; information on the sculptor much earlier in Denmark: Friis 1890-1901, p. 87-88.

2 Spielmann/Drees et al. 1997 and earlier Schlee et al. 1965 are the important publications regarding court culture in Gottorf. Mara Wade has added new and interesting notions on the cultural exchange between the Gottorf and Copenhagen courts. Wade 2017.

3 Roding 2020; Roding 2014.

4 Ilsøe 1999, p. 1-4; Roding 2014, p. 17.

5 Eller 1971, p. 107, note 16.

6 Eller 1971, p. 109-111.

7 Johannsen in: Andersen/Nyborg/Vedsø 2010, p. 161-183.

8 Kuhl 1997.

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