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Hans Knieper

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Subject: Frederick II of Denmark, Sophie of Mecklenburg-Güstrow, Tapestry, The Pastoral Amusements, Ros Tapestry Project
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Hans Knieper

Throne Baldaquin

Hans Knieper (alternative names: Hans Kniepper, Hans Knipper, Johan van Antwerpen, Hans Maler, Hans Knibber, Jan Knibber, signature: I. D. Knibber and monogram IDK)[1][2] (probably Antwerp, ? – Elsinore, 2 November 1587) was a Flemish painter and draughtsman. He became a court painter and tapestry carton designer at the Royal Danish Court and ran a tapestry weaving shop in Denmark.[3][4]

Early life and training

Very little is known about Knieper’s early life and training in Flanders.[5] He was likely born in [2] The only work attributed to him in his home country is a watercolour of an allegorical figure now in Gaasbeek in Belgium.[5]

In Denmark

Kronborg Castle

Detail of the Throne Baldaquin

Knieper must have had quite an international reputation as an artist since the Danish king Hans Hendrik van Paesschen and Anthonis van Obbergen. Rather than decorating the castle by importing finished art works, Frederick decided to invite artists to produce their work in situ.

Knieper arrived in Kronborg in the company of the Flemish master [6] He probably appointed another master weaver to manage the actual weaving work in the shop.[4]

First tapestries

As early as 1579 his workshop was able to deliver twelve tapestries with the Old Testament story of David and Nebuchadnezzar and a single tapestry with the story of Susanna and Daniel, none of which have survived. He delivered in the same year a further five tapestries of the Susanna series and two more Daniels. It has been speculated that between 1579 and 1581 the weaving activities ceased. It is not clear whether the Flemish weavers returned to their home country.

In this period, Knieper continued to work as the royal painter. He made paintings for the king’s chamber (the story of Gideon) and other rooms as well as the altarpiece for the castle’s chapel. Knieper was also responsible for the maintenance and preservation of the castle’s tapestries.[6]

The genealogy

In 1581 Frederick II commissioned Knieper's weaving workshop to design and weave a tapestry series of the Danish royal [3]

Behind the life-size portraits Knieper created a rich and vibrant background, with castles and forests, animals and plush vegetation, allegorical profundities, heraldic expressions and ornamentation of an elegance and brilliance not seen in Denmark before.[5]

The Throne Baldaquin

Portrait of Frederick II, 1581

When this series was completed in 1585, the king commissioned Knieper to make the Throne Baldaquin. The Throne Baldaquin was made of 8 separate tapestry pieces which were woven with silver, gold and silk. It was intended to hang above the heads of the king and queen when they sat at the head of the banquet table.[4] Its rich materials and distinguished and refined style make it probably Northern Europe's most beautiful piece of fabric. It was completed in 1586 and was in 1659 taken by the Swedes as war loot after they sacked Kronborg. It remained in the Swedish royal family until after Karl XV's death it was transferred to the State and is now in the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm.[5]

Portrait painting

Knieper is said to have revived Danish portrait painting. Portraits of king Frederick II, the queen Sophie, the queen's father, the Duke Ulrich III of Mecklenburg-Güstrow, and the crown prince Christian[7] have been attributed to him. Knieper's portrait painting and in particular the portrait of Frederick II represent a break with the domestic portrait tradition. It is the oldest known full-length profane portrait that is furthermore set into a three-dimensional pictorial space.[5]

Painting for Tycho Brahe

The famous Danish astronomer [8]

Knieper married Marine Johansen who survived him.[4]


  1. ^ Biographical details at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (Dutch)
  2. ^ a b Biographical details in Weilbach information (Danish)
  3. ^ a b Hugo Johannsen. "Oldenburg: (1) Frederick II, King of Denmark and Norway", Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 28 Jan. 2014
  4. ^ a b c d e f Elizabeth Cleland, 'Throne Baldachin', in: Thomas P. Campbell (ed.), Tapestry in the Baroque: Threads of Splendor, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1 Jan, 2007, p. 28-35
  5. ^ a b c d e f Biographical details in Kunstindeks Danmark (Danish)
  6. ^ a b c d Vibeke Woldbye, 'Flemish Tapestry Weavers in the Service of Nordic Kings', in: Guy Delmarcel (ed.), Flemish Tapestry Weavers Abroad: Emigration and the Founding of Manufactories in Europe : Proceedings of the International Conference Held at Mechelen, 2–3 October 2000, Leuven University Press, 1 Jan, 2002, p. 91-112
  7. ^ Portrait of Christian in Rosenborg Castle
  8. ^ John Robert Christianson, On Tycho's Island: Tycho Brahe, Science, and Culture in the Sixteenth Century, Cambridge University Press, 2003
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