Heinrich Hansen, a Danish academic painter, had his initial training as a painter in Flensborg, and attended the Academy in Copenhagen from 1842 until 1846, where he concentrated on decorative painting. Like Christian Kbke (1810-1848) Hansen was involved with the painted decorations of the Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen from 1844-5. Hansen traveled frequently, Germany in 1847, and in 1850 left for an extensive two-year European journey, visiting Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. Later, in 1868-69 and 1875, he visited Italy. For many years he taught perspective and ornamental design at the Copenhagen Academy and was a member of numerous artistic committees inside and outside of this institution. As a consequence, Hansen became an influential figure in the Danish art world. From 1868 through 1890 he was the artistic director of the Copenhagen porcelain manufacturer Bing & Grndahl. He strongly advocated the aesthetic enhancement of industrial products. Because of his premier position as a designer and his interest in the Renaissance, Danish art of a historic bent predominantly leaned toward a neo-Renaissance style. As a painter, Hansen was the first Danish artist to specialize in architectural painting. He received rapid fame for his detailed and harmonious depictions of buildings and richly decorated interiors, often in the Renaissance style. His minute studies of Frederiksborg Castle were used for the reconstruction of its interior after the fire of 1859. Hansen was also involved with the rebuilding of the famous Neptune fountain by the sculptor Adriaen de Vries at Frederiksborg, which had been dismantled during the Swedish occupation in 1659.
Our drawing is a typical subject of Hansen. Other church interiors that he executed include the Church of Saint Sablon, Brussels in the National Museum in Copenhagen The Slotskirken of Christiansborg, Copenhagen in the Cleveland Museum of Art. Ribe is Denmarks oldest surviving city and in southwest Jutland. It is on the banks of the Ribe River which runs into the ocean. A church has existed in the city since 854, and a cathedral has been there since 1110, and the present cathedral dates from this period is one of the best preserved Romanesque buildings. There were extensive re-buildings and decorations of the cathedral, and our drawing dates from after the 1843 re-decoration, and the building looks very similar today.