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4.2 Dutch immigration into Denmark in the 16th and 17th centuries

Exactly in line with what it sets out to do, Gerson’s chapter on Denmark starts at the beginning of the 17th century. However, the 16th century was at least as important for the overall development of the ‘Ausbreitung und Nachwirkung’ of Netherlandish art in Denmark. The absolute peak of Netherlandish impact was – from 1574 on  ̶  the extensive rebuilding and decoration of the imposing castle of Kronborg with its fortifications, under Frederick II (1534-1588).1 However, the intensive contacts between the Low Countries and Denmark date back much earlier than this.2 From the end of the 14th century Dutch immigrants made their homes in Dragør on Amager, at that time an island to the south of Copenhagen. In 1524, as many as 184 families from West-Friesland emigrated at the invitation of Christian II to that same Amager, where they settled in Hollanderdorp or Hollanderby (now: Store Magleby) and enjoyed special privileges.

They maintained their own language, names, national dress and customs until the middle of the 19th century.3 When in the 17th century the population of this colony had grown too big, the inhabitants were given permission to build a new settlement in Frederiksberg, now, just like Amager, a suburb of Copenhagen, but by 1697 they had already been abandoned this location. In the second half of the 16th century, smaller groups of immigrants came from the Republic to Denmark, where they settled on a series of small islands, but the greatest wave of immigration was to take place around 1567. These later immigrants were no longer farmers, but merchants, architects, craftsmen, ship builders, carpet weavers, mint masters, musicians and artists.4 One of the most important of these was architect Hans van Steenwinckel I (c. 1550-1601). His descendants were to hold high positions at the court as architects, sculptors, fortress builders and painters until around 1700.5

Language was never a problem. Danish printers could process poems and literature in the Dutch language, and actors from the Republic had no difficulty in performing their repertoire. A Dutch merchant or artist could readily be understood by his Danish colleagues, even when using his native language. The same applied for the contacts with patrons from the nobility. Danish nobles largely originated from Northern Germany and spoke Low German, that was closely related to the language spoken by the immigrants from the Netherlands. From the 16th to the 18th century, this particular linguistic factor must have been an important consideration for the Danish kings and other highly placed patrons to engage Dutch artists, merchants and scholars.6


For Kronborg, see a.o. Beckett 1897; Slothouwer 1924, Wanscher 1939; Norn 1954; Christensen 1950; Langberg 1985; Heiberg et al. 1988; Houkjær 2006, pp. 300-304; Johannsen 2006. About Antonius van Opberghen: Habela 1965; Gasiorowski 1976; Bartetzky 2006.


A good overview of the contacts between the Netherlands and Denmark can still be found in Fabricius/Hammerich/Lorenzen 1945.


Fabricius/Hammerich/Lorenzen 1945; the Amager museum in Store Magleby gives a good impression; Zibrandtsen 1976 . Many objects have also been preserved in the small church at Store Magleby: Danmarks Kirker, Københavns Amt, 3, pp. 306-319.


Bobé 1927; Fabricius/Hammerich/Lorenzen 1945.


Johannsen 2013, pp. 129-141.


Winge 1992; Winge 1995. Skovgaard-Petersen 2002 discusses the Danish historiographers Johannes Meursius and Johannnes Isacius Pontanus.

Datum laatste wijziging: May 05, 2015 05:57 PM