Herman Wilhelm Bissen
Bust of the merchant and politician Alfred Hage, February 15, 1856
Marble, 68 x 31 x 25 cm.
Inventory number: 0165NMK
Acquired before 1904. Bestowed to the museum in 1908
In addition to being a merchant, politician, landowner and, not least, father to Johannes Hage, Alfred Hage was also a patron of the arts. He commissioned several works from the most prominent artists of his day, and a number of these would later become part of his son Johannes’ art collection. When H.W. Bissen began sculpting busts of members of the Danish high society in the 1850s, Alfred Hage was unsurprisingly one of his many patrons. With this bust, Bissen studiously replicated many of the aging landowner’s facial features such as the beginnings of bags under his eyes, clear furrows, sideburns and prominent nose. These physiognomic characteristics are, however, reproduced with a soft modulation that emphasises the harmonious form of the overall composition. The focused and observant gaze also injects a certain vivacity and presence into the bust.
Herman Wilhelm Bissen (1798-1868)
When Herman Wilhelm Bissen left Slesvig to commence studies at the Danish Royal Academy of Art in Copenhagen at the age of 18, it was with the intention of becoming a painter. However, it was sculpting that quickly caught his interest instead, and after having triumphed at the academy’s awarding of medals, Bissen travelled to Rome with the intention of becoming a sculptor. During his time there, he became acquainted with the greatest sculptor of the time, Bertel Thorvaldsen. Bissen would spend his whole life in the shadow of Thorvaldsen’s success, but the two colleagues often worked closely together. Bissen was clearly influenced by Thorvaldsen’s classicist idiom, but in comparison, Bissen’s sculptures often appear more dramatic. Nationalism also left its mark on Bissen’s art, and Bissen found his own style and niche in earnest with subjects such as The Danish soldier from 1850-51.