Balthasar Denner

Portrait Of Captain Mathias Ibsen Lunding

Balthasar Denner

Portrait Of Captain Mathias Ibsen Lunding

This splendid early 18th-century oil painting by German artist Balthasar Denner (1685-1749) depicts Captain Mathias Ibsen Lunding (1690-1728).

At the height of his success, Balthasar Denner was considered by many as one of the greatest living portraitists. In 1721, his ‘portrait of an old woman’ was finished with such attention to detail that it was met with sheer astonishment. It was photographic, but pre-dated photography by a century. Every hair was precisely rendered, even the facial ‘fuzz’. While each wrinkle was painstakingly replicated. A bidding war ensued, with various interested parties, and eventually, it was sold to Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, for 5875 Dutch guilders (around £400,000 in today’s currency).

Numerous commissions followed and he travelled extensively, living in Amsterdam, London and various parts of Germany. His studios were entertaining, with his children often accompanying a sitting with music. Denner’s portrait of George Frideric Handel is at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Here, in this work from around 1725, he’s rendered a characterful likeness of Captain Mathias Ibsen Lunding. During the 11-year war with Sweden, Lunding was captured by a Swedish privateer and brought to Gothenburg, but escaped after attacking his guards. During the resulting drama he was wounded - his injury contributed to his death some years later.

The facial details are exquisitely done with the eyes and prominent nose a particular success. He carries a relaxed expression with an approachable smile. It’s possible that Denner’s daughter, Esther Denner, painted the body.

The portrait was commissioned by the Lunding family, who own a letter referring to its purchase.

Inscribed on the reverse and held within a later frame.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 28½” x 33½” / 72cm x 85cm
Year of creation: c. 1725
Labels & Inscriptions: Old written inscription on reverse plus a printed label.
Provenance: Private collection, Denmark.
Condition: Artwork presents well. Fine craquelure but the paint is stable. Canvas relined. Later stretcher. Frame with some light wear.
Artist’s auction maximum: £28,672

Balthasar Denner

Balthasar Denner

Balthasar Denner was an eminent German artist predominantly known for his highly detailed half-length portraits and head studies. He was inspired by the 17th-century masters of the Dutch Golden Age and trained at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin. His works are held in numerous public collections including at Tate Britain, the British Museum, the Royal Collection Trust, National Portrait Gallery, V&A and the Rijksmuseum.

Learn more about Balthasar Denner in our directory.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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