THE ARTISTS


Only on special occasions were the gates opened to Holmen, for instance when one of the Navy´s ships was launched or when a major piece of engineering was inaugurated.
From all parts of town festively dressed citizens crowded to Toldboden and over 'Bommen' (the boom) across the harbor to Holmen. On both sides of the slipways tents were put up for the occasion; one from which the royal family and their guests could watch the launch and one for the other notabilities and the management of the dockyard. The members of the royal family were brought from Toldboden in one of the beautiful barges and sailed to Nyholm with all due ceremony. Here they were met by the minister and the head of the dockyard and greeted with military honors.

When the royal family had disembarked the royal standard was hoisted. Salutes were fired from the battery Sixtus and from the ships anchored in the roadstead. Then the dean of Holmen gave a speech and the king ordered that the ship be launched. Among loud and enthusiastic cheers the large hull slipped into the water. Another salute was fired and the royal family was brought back to Toldboden. For the general audience and the convened artisans there was now music and afterwards the civilians had the opportunity to admire the many beautiful models of ships and technical devices in the model room.

Another exception from the existing rules of admission to Holmen existed for a small and select group from the nearby Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. C.W. Eckersberg and his students were among the artists who most diligently used this privilege. On Holmen they could find rare subjects and picturesque scenes. The large naval ships with the fine lines of the hull and the complicated patterns of the rigging presented a challenge to anyone with the soul of an artist.
Eckersberg spent many hours in the model room and he also borrowed constructional drawings to be used for preliminary studies for his many seapieces. Whenever the opportunity offered he participated in the Navy’s expeditions in Danish waters.

In this way a number of the most prominent artists of the day got into contact with the Danish navy and the Navy and the artists engaged in close collaboration. In the period from 1780 and until the 1860´s N.A. Abildgaard, Nicolai Dajon, Berthel Thorvaldsen, G.F. Hetch, Vilhelm Dahlerup and H.W. Bissen all worked on the ornamentation of the naval ships. All things considered, only a few workplaces in Copenhagen could boast a similar joining of forces.

At times the permanent staff at Holmen took on various tasks outside the area. In 1768 more than 300 seamen were called out together with a group of artisans with the purpose of bringing the artist Sally’s equestrian statue of Frederik 5. from the 'Gjethuset', the cannon foundry at Kongens Nytorv, and to its pedestal in the courtyard of Amalienborg Castle. Furthermore, it was the custom that the Navy assisted the city with major fire fighting tasks, dredging of the harbor and transports.