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Historic Flashback

The following is a description of some of the most noticeable efforts made to create a carpentry tradition in Denmark. It is not an uninterrupted tradition, but a line can be traced back to the decades before and after 1800, where with support from the Danish government, carpentry craftsmanship was improved and a standard was set. It is a carpentry culture which today is considered a Danish tradition, and which in the 1940’s and 1950’s included Denmark in the history of furniture design. It is on the basis of this century-old tradition that architect Kaare Klint in the years around the first World War began his studies of the craftsmanship and quality which was expressed in both the English designer furniture and in Chinese furniture’s simplified character. Naturally, one cannot justify the culture-historical development in this short summary, which is why the interested reader can study the more complete collection of literature on the subject found in the hotel’s library or on the Internet.

Copenhagen’s Carpentry Guild was founded in 1554, where carpenters distinguished themselves from cabinet makers and created an independent association. The regulations for the members’ workshops were many and covered every area. One of the most important guild rules was that the guild must ensure that the members had sole right to their business. In order to become member, one had to create one “masterpiece” (a test piece of work to prove his ability). No “bastards” were allowed as members, the master’s wife had to be “blameless”, etc.
In 1770, a rule having a significant consequence was introduced to the Art Academy: that it was its duty to educate its apprentices in the art of drawing and to approve masterpieces. This power was unique among Europe’s art academies, also because the study of carpentry throughout the entire period was supported by the professors’ active interest in furniture design. We meet such names as Jarding, Harsdorff, Wiedewelt, Abildgaard and many others.

The Art Academy maintained this role until 1857, when the governmentpassed the freedom of trade law, whereby the Carpentry Guild was dissolved. At the same time, the Art Academy’s right to educate apprentices in drawing and to inspect and approve masterpieces was repealed.

Eventually, furniture import increased so immensely that the Danish carpenters who produced furniture could not compete with the foreign-made furniture. They were expensive, their workmanship was poor and was not influenced by changes in style. In 1777, The Royal Furniture Warehouse was founded in order to raise the level of craftsmanship and quality. The Ministry of Commerce decided to establish five workshops, where models could be produced to serve as inspiration for Danish carpenters. A shop was established for carpenters from Copenhagen to sell their products, as long as they fulfilled all quality requirements. The warehouse also had fine types of wood in store, gave initial capital to new master carpenters and made drawings for new models that they could order.

The warehouse was founded at the request of the city’s masterbuilder, architect Georg E. Rosenberg. He was apprentice to the French architect, Nicolas-Henri Jardin, who had originally been hired to build Frederiks Church, but due to the slow rate of construction undertook other assignments. As professor at the Art Academy, he had great significance for the expansion of new-classicism’s architecture and furniture design, a style by which even Rosenberg was strongly influenced. As manager and designer, Rosenberg employed design carpenter, Georg Roentgen from Neuwied.

In 1784, the Norwegian civil servant, Carsten Anker, filled the manager’s chair. He was more occupied with English influences of the time, and with the Academy’s recommendation, employed Johan Lillie as Roentgen’s replacement, whereby the English influence began to have its effect. Among other responsibilities, Johan Lillie supervised the carpentry work for the famous country house, Liselund.