The Carlsberg Museum: Quite possibly the Best Ancient Collection in Copenhagen (Part Two)

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…Continued from Part One…

Greece and Rome

The stars of the collection are in the upstairs galleries.  The Roman art is, frankly, extraordinary.  Jacobsen had an agent in Rome who helped him acquire some of the most beautiful and delicate works of art – and the range of busts is even more amazing.

But let’s begin with a lion, who is genuinely happy to see us and move on to statues – many of which are Roman reproductions of famous Greek originals – or variations on Greek themes.

Before you continue on to the next galleries, you will notice that there seems to be something rather special off to the side…


Now, I must say that this room looked so much more impressive in real life – I think it’s partly because of the lighting but it’s also just because reproductions of the Roman world generally don’t photograph great, for some reason.

Once you’re done wallowing in the heady red and marble delights of the Roman Room, you continue on to a gallery that like a Who’s-Who of the Roman world.  If you know your Emperors, you’re going to recognise quite a few faces.

Ok, I could do a quite tiresome resume of the lives of these guys, but I won’t.  But I would just like to draw your attention to one of my all-time favourite portraits: that of Pompey.  Ever since learning about him for my A-Levels, I’ve always found him to be a strange figure – slightly silly, actually.  He was an extremely lucky individual and though he doubtless made many an excellent decision about many a battle, all I can ever think of are those moments when he took over a job 3/4 done and claimed the glory: like the Spartacus uprising and the Third Mithridatic War.  Anyway, he was truly a complex character and through his involvement in so many events leading up to the end of the Roman Republic, he is fascinating to learn about.

And because he was so important, it is funny to see that this man who lauded himself as a great general was happy to have himself depicted as a chubby-faced amiable uncle.  This bust is thought to be a copy of a bronze original made when Pompey was about 50 years old.  He was keen to be seen as a man of the people – but with an unmistakable affinity to Alexander the Great.  Here, his hair is flicked up a la Alexander, but what is more obvious is the projection of the idea that Pompey was an affable, kindly fellow whose honesty is written over every inch of his podgy little features.

However the collection also boasts of fine busts of Caligula and Claudius, and many lovely portraits of unknown Romans.  It’s really a fascinating gallery and shows how Roman art went through different stylistic periods – some finer than others.

So In Summary

The Carlsberg Glyptotek is a remarkable museum.  The quality of the Roman art is exceptional and almost too overwhelming.  As has become my way, I had to rush through before getting thrown out at closing time, and so I didn’t get a chance to see the more modern art on show, which was a shame.  However, quite honestly, what I did see was totally worth it and it is without doubt one of the must-visit museums for anyone who loves classical art.

Further Information

There is a fee to enter the museum, and there is a chic cafe in the Winter Garden where you can have something to eat and drink – particularly Carlsberg beer specials.

There is a website, which is available in English, and gives you all the information you need on openings and exhibitions and all that:  I was a little disappointed by the lack of information available about the objects on show – it directs you to a Danish database if you want to look up specific objects, which I found tricky to use.

How To Get There

The Museum is very easy to get to as it’s a five minute walk from the main train station.  For specific to/from information, the Danish transport site is available in English and is easy to navigate:






  • douglas 24th August 2018 at 5:31 am

    I agree, the glyptoteket is possibly the most comprehensive museum in ancient history in its collection in Denmark. I spent about 4 hours in the museum a few weeks ago, and still could not cover all corners, there was just too much to see. I am also particularly interested in the architecture of the buildings. From the official website, they have some brief description about the architect and the design, but there were no plans, and little explanation about the motifs and designs opted for at the time. I noticed there was a pyramid on top of the rear entrance with apparently the statue of Athena on top of it, something that looks like a mausoleum…I wonder what you make of it?

    • chickpea 27th August 2018 at 5:33 pm

      Hi Douglas – thanks for your comment! I’m glad you enjoyed your visit too – it is a fantastic place to explore, and like you, I didn’t get to every room. Which is just an excuse to go back one day… Regarding the architecture, I wish I could point you towards some more detailed information – in fact, I was sure that when I was doing research for this post I’d come across some relevant articles, but I can’t find them now. If I come across them later (you always find things when you aren’t looking!) I’ll let you know. Unfortunately I also didn’t see the rear entrance – I visited in winter, so it was too dark to explore. However, judging by photos on the internet, I thought it might be a take on the Mausoleum of Halicarnassos, and after some searching discovered that this was indeed the case! Apparently it was intended as a mausoleum for Carl Jacobsen and his wife, but was never used:

      I hope this is helpful to you!
      As for the statue of Athena, she is on the gable of the Munich Glyptothek, too, as the patron of arts and wisdom.


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