“I had attained the age of fourteen when the dreadful conflagration of the king’s enormous palace of Christianbourgh took place. The flames that issued from the immense pile, awful as they were, filled my youthful mind with the most lively emotions of delight. I never contemplated for a moment the destruction of property in the striking magnificence of the scene. At night the spectacle was truly grand, and I stood looking on with unwearied pleasure as the devouring element continued its ravages.”
As a historian I find portraits of historic people to be extremely interesting, especially portraits which they had stood model for themselves. Not only do they give us a chance to look the people we as historians read and write about straight in the eyes, but they also give us a chance to see how they wanted to portray themselves.
One of my favorite portraits is by the Danish painter Jens Juel (1745-1802) titled “Niels Ryberg with his son Johan Christian and daughter in law Engelke, born Falbe”, though it is more commonly known as “The Ryberg Family”.
The night between the 25th and 26th of November 1844
A bloody event is taking place this night in the village Orsu outside the Danish fortress Christiansborg (Christian’s Castle) on the African Gold Coast. In the flickering candle light local tribesmen are frantically beating the village’s war drum as part of a fetish ceremony lead by the local chieftain Adum Takori. The former translator at the nearby Danish fort, Sebah Akim, drags two children to the drum, where he cuts their throats so that their blood gushes over the drum. The locals are of the belief that it will keep the souls of the children in a state of agony every time the drum sounds. The next day five siblings to the murdered children are sold to a Portuguese slave trader. Read more.