Monkey Business

Twenties Danish Sculpture of Howling Monkey & Snake by Knud Kyhn for Royal Copenhagen (LEO Design)

Amongst the finest pieces of ceramic sculpture I’ve ever had is this Danish stoneware monkey by Knud Kyhn for Royal Copenhagen. Sculpted in the 1920’s, it captures a most-dramatic scene of a (howling?) monkey threatened by a coiled snake, ready-to-strike.  The gorgeous sang de boeuf glaze adds drama—and a bit of Orientalist mystery—to the timeless artwork.  And timeless it is; this piece easily would command centerstage in any masculine Victorian, theatrical Art Deco or relentlessly Modernist milieu.

Knud Kyhn was born on 17 March 1880.  From 1900 to 1904 he attended art school and began his career with Royal Copenhagen upon graduation.  For the next 64 years, Kyhn worked for Royal Copenhagen—off and on—and became one of their most prolific sculptor-designers. He also worked at Bing & Grohdahl  for a time.  Additionally, Knud Kyhn was an accomplished draughtsman and painter.

The piece above was probably made in a very small run.  In fact, I’ve never seen another one (in-person or otherwise). Others of Khyn’s pieces, however, were very popular and were produced for years—a limited number released each year.   After sculpting a new piece, the artist would supervise the casting and glazing during its commercial production.  Since Royal Copenhagen was in the business of making collectable objects, they were savvy about determining just the right number of a given piece to produce each year—the goal: to satisfy collectors’ demand without flooding the market with too much product.

Knud Kyhn died on 23 November 1969.  His home and studio—located in Farnum, 12 miles from Copenhagen—are now open to the public and a museum of the artist’s work is being planned.

Please click on the photo above to learn more about it.


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