Rasmus Christiansen, The Writing Maid

Rasmus Christiansen, The Writing Maid

A fine early 20th-century interior scene depicting the writer Charlotte Dorothea Biehl (1731–1788) by Danish artist Rasmus Christiansen (1863-1940).

Biehl was a well-known author during the 18th-century and predominantly known for the scandalous letters she wrote to her friend, Johan Bülow. In these, she would report on the marital affairs of the Danish court - particularly King Frederik IV and King Frederik V. Initially her letters were not intended for publication, so they’re quite explicit. Today, they would be the equivalent of a saucy gossip column in a tabloid newspaper.

Here, we see Biehl sitting on a window sill surreptitiously gathering information. Her room is lit with an unusual red glow, which builds on her reputation for erotic writing.

The painting is signed by Rasmus Christiansen and also inscribed with the monogram of Kristian Zahrtmann (1843-1917). This technique is often used to indicate that another artist painted the original, so it’s likely that Christiansen painted this after Zahrtmann.

Christiansen studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and also at the Artists' Study School under the gifted PS Krøyer (1851-1909) and Laurits Tuxen (1853-1927). He’s known to have worked with Tuxen on a portrait of Queen Victoria and also travelled to Berlin with the great Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916).

His works are quite varied and include city scenes, genre scenes, portraits and landscapes.

The painting is housed within a later frame.

Medium: Oil on board
Overall size: 22½” x 26½” / 57cm x 68cm
Year of creation: 1910
Provenance: Denmark
Condition: Very presentable overall.
Artist’s auction highlight: £12,435 achieved for ‘Jysk Dragon I Fuld Fart!’ at auction in 2000.