09 November 2013

Vintage virtues

On my way to the sweet tree-signs the other day, I caught some really cool house-action out of the corner of my eye. It was built by a foundation back in 1895, by the publishers and brothers Soldenfeldt. Back then the workforce in Denmark carried around a book “Skudsmålsbogen” in which employers made notes and graded the labour*. The book was mandatory and as the brothers had cornered the market, they made a fortune.

The Soldenfeldt brothers were famous for their great sense of social responsibility, helping out the poor, leaving instructions in their will to create a foundation, and build this house for women in need. “De Soldenfeldtske Stiftelser” was built by architect H.B. Storck, and the sad terracotta women, representing the female virtues at the time, are sculpted by Carl Aarsleff.

I find it suspicious that moderation, diligence, patience, purity, humility, faith, hope, love, peace, vigilance, wisdom and truthfulness, are all passive characteristics. Don’t make waves just mop the floors. Clearly I would have sucked as a woman, at that time.

The master plan was to return on a brighter day, but the wait got too long (failing at the third virtue, right there), so we have to make do with grainy shots.

De Soldenfeldtske Stiftelser / The Soldenfeldtske Foundations

Hiding in plain view, making me feel blind for not seeing them before. Sneaky house.

Behold a selection of the virtues:

Flid / Diligence

Flid / Diligence. Incidentally the only woman who look even remotely happy. Check the yummy copper detail.

Reenhed / Purity

Reenhed / Purity.

Ydmyghed / Humility

Ydmyghed / Humility.

Tro / Faith

Tro / Faith. (I like that women were accepted to the house regardless of religious belief)

Fred / Peace

Fred / Peace.

Klogskab / Wisdom

Klogskab / Wisdom.

Sandhed / Truthfulness

Sandhed / Truthfulness.

I found a lot of information about this house (in Danish, of course) at the Soldenfeldt.dk site. It is a pleasant surprise to see Copenhagen history preserved to this degree, not just the house, but also the detailed background story. These guys deserves to be remembered, for their generous contribution to Copenhagen.

In case you want to see it for yourself, here is the address: Sortedam Dossering 85 (with a view of the lakes), link to map here.

* Unsurprisingly the Skudsmålsbog led to abuse by employers, and by 1920 the dreaded book was abandoned.


  1. Hi Sandra!
    you say: "Clearly I would have sucked as a woman, at that time."
    well, or maybe NOW in a few countries like Switzerland!
    anyway, it's a great building. Very rare to see women on buildings.

  2. Now that you mention it, it is rare to see women. The only statues we have of them here, are naked. It may not be perfect now, but I would have suffocated a hundred years ago, for sure. : )

  3. Thanks for the history lesson! I often saw this building while walking around the lakes and wondered about the women on it. I like to think that I would have been a good cross between purity and humility ;) xox

    1. I still can't get over how it took me so long to spot them. And also, rereading the virtues I realize I may have been too hard on myself, I only fail miserably in "patience". Still, I am grateful that I live today, and not then. The limitations would have driven me nuts. :D


I love comments! Go ahead, make my day. :-)