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by Archaeology Newsroom

From the Greek sketchbooks of the architect Christian Hansen

The Danish architect Christian Hansen (1803-1883) worked and lived in Athens for 17 years from 1833 to 1850; during this period he was employed by the Greek court. Christian Hansen was born in Copenhagen. His father Rasmus Hansen (1774-1824) worked as a messenger boy in an insurance company and came from Norway. His mother was Sophie Elisabeth Jensen.

As an architect in Athens he showed great skill and activity. He built the Mint (1835), participated in the restoration of the Acropolis, which included the reerection of the Temple of Nike (1835-37). Besides, he built the Catholic Church St. Paul in Piraeus (1836), the University of Athens (1839) as well as the Anglican Church (1840), several private houses etc. In the 1840’s he built harbour buildings at Kalamaki.

In the library of the Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, where the drawings of Christian Hansen were archived after his death, are over 300 drawings, aquarelles, sketches etc from his studies in Greece – mostly of monuments and architecture of antiquity.The Library is also in possession of 10 small sketchbooks filled with drawings from his stay in Greece. Most of these drawings were executed during his first years in Greece in the 1830s, and therefore they are of the greatest interest today as a documentation of topography, archaeology, architecture etc of the early Othonian period. In this presentation, some of the sketches are published for the first time. My intention with this introduction to some of Christian Hansen’s several hundred sketches in his sketchbooks in Copenhagen have been to bring into focus the drawings which are not especially concerned with archaeological objects or antique monuments, which were also of great interest to Christian Hansen. The sketches show Hansen’s studies of contemporary Greek towns with their byzantine and modern architecture. He was deeply influenced by this architecture which is proved by his buildings at Athens, in Trieste and in Copenhagen.

At the same time the sketches offer documentation of topographical and historical interest in the years of King Otto’s first 10 years on the throne of Greece. Many of the documents both those presented in this article and others depicted in the sketchbooks have now disappeared, but further studies in the subject may throw more light on which places and which monuments were depicted in the books. The Danish sketchbooks form also an invaluable source together with drawings of other European architects and artists who recorded their impressions of Greece in the 1830s in sketches, paintings and drawings.