Langelinie monument

A sculpture on the Langelinie promenade commemorates such an amazing story that it deserves a separate post. The monument to Ludvig Mylius-Erichsen, First Lieutenant Niels Peter Høeg Hagen and Jørgen Brønlund is just off the main path, on the north side of the marina and down on the edge of the water.

The three men were part of an expedition that set out in 1906, led by Mylius-Erchisen, to explore and map the west coast of Greenland. In the Spring of 1907, they left the rest of the group on a trip by dog sled to start the survey but did not return. In March the following year, the body of Brønlund was found with his journal recording the deaths of his two companions but the bodies of the other two men have never been recovered.

In 1911 a competition was held for an appropriate monument and a design by Kaare Klint and Kai Nielsen was selected by the judges. A massive granite boulder chosen for the monument had been discovered submerged in the Flinterenden Channel off the island of Saltholm and Kai Nielsen actually donned a diving suit and inspected it on the sea bed before the 40-ton rock was raised by a large crane and transported to its final location where the figures and the commemorative text on the landward side were then carved in situ.

Part of the text is taken from Brønlund’s journal:

MINDESTEN/FOR MYLIUS ERICHSEN/BRØNLUND OG HØEG HAGEN/DER SATTE LIVET TIL PAA DAN-/MARK-EXPEDITIONEN I AARET 1907/AF JØRGEN BRØNLUNDSDAGBOG:/OMKOM 79 FIORDEN EFTER FORSØG/HJEMREJSE OVER INDLANDSISEN I/NOVEMBER MAANED JEG KOMMER/HERTIL l AFTAGENDE MAANESKIN OG/KUNDE IKKE VIDERE AF FORFROSNINGER I FØDDERNE OG AF MØRKET/ANDRES LIG FINDES MIDT I FJORDEN/FORAN BRÆ (OMTRENT 2½ MIL)/HAGEN DØDE 15 NOVEMBER/OG MYLIUS OMTRENT 10 DAGE EFTER
Memorial to Mylius Erichsen/ Brønlund and Høeg Hagen who lost their lives on the Denmark expedition in the year 1907- From Jørgen Brønlund's diary. Passed 79 fjord after attempt- journey home across inland ice in November. I arrive here in waning moonlight and can go no futher for frostbite in my feet and for the darkness. Others' bodies are in the middle of the fjord in front of glacier (about 2 ½ miles)- Hagen died 15 November and Mylius about 10 days later.

In this photograph of men from the expedition, Mylius-Erichsen is standing in the centre and Brønlund on the left. When they died Ludvig Mylius-Erichsen was thirty-five years old and Niels Høeg Hagen and Jørgen Brønlund just thirty.

Blågårds Plads

Walking over to the Bethlehem Church and to Strangas earlier in the week, I cut along Blågårdsgade - a street in Nørrebro that runs parallel to the lakes on the side away from the city and one block back from Peblinge Sø. I have walked along the street several times and had noticed the square but it was always when it was busy with people so I had been people watching and looking at the shops and the busy stalls of the flea market. 

This day was quieter and it was possible to appreciate the size of the square and the layout with a broad area to walk around the outside, planted with mature trees, but with a large open area, sunk below the level of the pavement, at the centre. On one side the line of buildings is broken with a church set back and slightly raised above the level of the square with a double flight of steps up to the central door. 

At intervals around the retaining wall of the sunken area and at the corners are sculptures, 22 in all, that are carved in granite and depict working men and women with small children, toddlers, barely more than babies. 

The adult figures are incredible, life size, bent almost double, in effect sitting on the retaining wall and facing into the square, mostly occupied by their trades - one figure making a barrel, another with a carpenter's plane and another wearing a heavy apron and removing a nail from a horseshoe so clearly a blacksmith. Just one of the male figures is not working - he plays an accordion. Apart from one man, a butcher who wrestles with a ram he is slaughtering, each adult figure has a single child clinging to them or crawling over them and it is not clear if the adult workers are teaching the children or are being distracted and annoyed by them. Only in two figures - a woman showing a child a large fish she is holding and another woman clasping a child to her, breast feeding - is there any real sense of engagement between the adult and the child.

At the corners of the sunken area are steps down for access to the lower part and the corners are emphasised by large, rounded, boulder-shaped groups with more children but here playing alone and much more vigorously portrayed. There are similar large groups without adults at the centre of the church side as part of a broad double flight of steps. On one side, six children play with two rabbits and in the other group the toddlers hug or hold a group of small owls.

The figures are self-contained and dignified; inward looking, caught up with what they are doing and not looking out or forward or at each other. This is strong, intense public art and well worth seeking out. 

The Cityscape Atlas of Copenhagen published in 2003 describes the square as “the heart of this quarter and among the best designed urban spaces in Copenhagen.”

The open square and some of the buildings around the square date from the early 20th century, immediately before the First World War, when a city block of crowded commercial properties were demolished. The architect was Ivar Bentsen who went on, in 1921, to found The Danish Institute of Town Planning and that was also the year he designed the Bakkehusene row houses which were the first terraced houses for the working class to be built by the Copenhagen Public Housing Association. In 1923 he was appointed as a Professor at the School of Architecture.

The sculptures were by Kai Nielsen who was then only about 30 years old but, tragically, died just a few years later.

There are works by Nielsen in the collection of the Statens Museum for Kunst (the National Gallery in Copenhagen) including a sculpture of Leda with the Swan, a Seated Old Woman and this bronze portrait bust of the boxer Emil Andreasen that dates from 1922 and has a raw power comparable to that shown in the depiction of working men in the sculptures around the square.