Something of a sensation can be experienced at Kronborg Castle from 24th April 2012 and for four years to come. The castle is being visited by its 426-year-old table canopy – that is, a covering mounted above a table so that dust and dirt would not fall down on the King’s food. The Danish King Frederik II and his German-born Queen Sophie’s table canopy is of very high quality and is the only one of its kind that still exists from the Renaissance.
Purple silk, silver and gold
When Frederik II had the 43 woven tapestries of Danish kings delivered to his brand new, sump¬tu¬ously decorated Kronborg Castle in Elsinore, he must have thought something was missing: in 1585 he com¬mis¬sioned “a back piece with a canopy above our table in the large hall”. Everything was of the best quality; the table canopy itself was made of fine purple silk woven through with thread of silver and gold. With its costly materials the table canopy must have outshone the tapestries. And since it is also in incredibly good condition compared with the worn tapestries, the contrast has become even greater over the years.
Throne canopies, canopied four-posters and table canopies
Many people have heard of thrones and beds with canopies – but a table canopy? In principle it is decorated material that serves the same practical purpose as other canopies: to ensure that dust and dirt do not fall down between the beams and planks of the ceiling and land on what happens to be below. Frederik II’s table canopy in fact consists of three parts: besides the actual canopy there is also a surrounding hanging and a back. On the whole, no small matter – the canopy alone measures an impressive 4 x 2½ metres!
A world of symbols
But the table canopy served other purposes than the practical one. It symbolized the heavens and made the person sitting under the heavens the midpoint and master of the universe. On festive occasions at Kronborg the table canopy emphasized the place of honour in the ballroom, where Frederik II and Queen Sophie sat together with the finest guests.
And looking at it more closely one is struck by its wealth of colours, figures and symbols. In the most prominent position are the arms of the Royal couple, surrounded by a fantastic architectural construction with an abundance of details. We can see among other things the Virtues: Justice (with sword and scales), Temperance (running water dousing burning wine) and Fortitude (with helmet and shield). The Virtues represent the qualities a Royal couple were expected to have in the Renaissance.
From Denmark to Sweden – and back
During the wars with the Swedes Kronborg was besieged by Carl X Gustav’s Swedish troops in 1658-1660. Many of the valuables of the castle were taken to Sweden as spoils of war, including the table canopy. But since the canopy’s arms and devices were closely associated with the Danish monarchy, it could not be used to shed its glamour on prestigious gatherings in Sweden. So for centuries it lay in Swedish stores, until 1868 when it went to the National Museum in Stock¬holm, where it is normally exhibited. In connection with the rebuilding of the museum up to 2017, the table canopy can be admired at Kronborg, after which it has to go back to Sweden.
Read more about the table canopy and the Kronborg tapestries in the Palaces and Properties Agency’s book “The King Tapestries. Pomp & Propaganda at Kronborg Castle”, which can be bought at Kronborg.
Information coordinator Mikael Rasmus Nielsen, email@example.com, +45 3392 7084
Marketing coordinator Jesper T. Møller, firstname.lastname@example.org, +45 3392 6395
Download photos about the exhibition here
“Frederik II’s Table Canopy”. Special exhibition from 24th April 2012 until 1st April 2016
Kronborg Castle in Elsinore