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Sculptures in Gammel Holtegaard’s Baroque Garden

De Thurah commissioned the sculptor Johan Friedrich Hännel (1710–1761) for a number of decorative assignments. It is highly probable that Hännel also made the sculptures for de Thurah’s private garden. The four sandstone sculptures in the garden are newly hewn copies of the original sculptures. They were created using motifs from ancient mythology, which have been used as models in art since the Renaissance. De Thurah preferred the Baroque idiom, despite the arrival of the Rococo in Denmark from the 1730s onwards. Hännel’s sculptures also seem to be more classical and have a certain weightiness rather than playful lightness. 

The four sculptures are Hercules, Mercury, Diana and Venus. Hercules, the great hero of the Ancient Antique, stands with a large club in one hand; in the other hand, which is held behind his back, is one of the apples of the Hesperides. He differs from the other sculptures by virtue of his greater weightiness and detailed musculature. The other male figure in de Thurah’s garden is Mercury, the god of communication, trade and business acumen. His attributes are a stave wound around with snakes, winged sandals, and a bag of money held in one hand. To Mercury’s left stands Venus, the goddess of love, beauty and all prosperity in nature. With one arm she covers her breasts, and with the other her sex. According to the myth, Venus was born out of sea-foam and, in this version, she has a sea creature at her feet. Diana, who stands to the right of Hercules, is the goddess of hunting and wild animals. The Romans also associated her with the moon and allowed her to be its goddess. She is carrying a quiver on her back, has her hunting dog lying at her feet, and is wearing a crescent in her hair. 

In the garden one may also find a group of sculptures by the Danish artist Richard Winther (1926–2007). The group was erected here in connection with the exhibition Wie (2005) and consists of the works ‘Paris and Helen’, ‘Winkelmann’ and ‘Fidelity’. The project was supported by the Danish Arts Foundation.

The re-creation of the J.F. Hännel sculptures is supported by the OAK Foundation Denmark, Ny Carlsbergfondet.