Peter Klæstrup's drawing from 1845 (?)

Portraits of Søren Kierkegaard

Tegning af Klæstrup. Acc. 1911-8497. Neg. 285, 169995.

Peter Klæstrup (1820-82).

It is in no way easy to be a caricature. If the resemblance is too good, it becomes a portrait, if the resemblance is too poor, it cannot be determined who it is that is being caricatured. In the case of Kierkegaard the task is nearly impossible, one of his contemporaries, the theologian P.C. Zahle, actually directly makes the claim: “Kierkegaard was close to resembling a caricature.” When looking at Peter Klæstrup’s drawing, which in the original is coloured most meticulously, the question arises whether the artist is making a caricature or merely portraying a caricature.
It is not known when Klæstrup drew this dandified Kierkegaard with the self-confident attitude, but when he re-appeared in “The Corsair” on Januar 9, 1846, the dandy had been replaced by shabbiness and the self-confidence by the ludicrous. The shoulders had also been pulled further up under the hat, the back provided with extra curvature, and as a last effect, Klæstrup had made the one trouser leg slightly shorter than the other. This last quickly turned out to be a stroke of genius. The genius had been literally caught on the wrong foot. In no time Kierkegaard, who had formerly been a natural part of the life of the city, became the city’s walking caricature, and everyone enjoyed it as best they could. Aside from one individual.


Based on the catalogue of the exhibit "Kierkegaard. The Secret Note", The Round Tower, Copenhagen, May 6 - June 9, 1996, arranged under the auspices of The Søren Kierkegaard Research Center by Niels Jørgen Cappelørn and The Søren Kierkegaard Society by Joakim Garff. The portraits shown here are all from the Photograph and Print Collection of the Royal Library, and are in some cases prints based on the original drawings. W. = Westergaard, Danske Portrætter i Kobberstik, Litorgrafi og Træsnit.