Christian II signing the Death Warrant of Torben Oxe

  • Artist: Eilif Peterssen
  • Creation date: 1875–1876
  • Object type: Painting

On display: Room 049 The Collection Exhibition - History and mythology


The picture is one of the principal works of Norwegian historical painting, and depicts a scene from the early sixteenth century, when Norway was under Danish rule. The nobleman Torben Oxe’s death warrant from 1517 had political ramifications and led indirectly to the fall of Christian II.

The painting depicts the psychologically intense moment when the king, obviously in doubt, decides whether or not to effectuate the warrant. To his right stands his advisor Didrik Slagheck, who hands him a quill pen for signing the document; on his left, Queen Isabella looks at him with teary eyes, clearly wanting him not to do so. Both figures lean in toward the king – Slagheck in black and the queen in white, symbolizing the battle of good versus evil.

The shallow pictorial space is dense with figures: in addition to the three main protagonists, no less than seven people are pressed together in the right half of the picture, with the red-clad cardinal serving as the centrepiece and creating the sense of perspective. The picture evinces how Eilif Peterssen at the time was stylistically influenced by the Munich school and by his studies of Venetian Renaissance painting; this is seen in the intricate details, materiality, warm colour scheme, and contrast between the light and dark sections. The artist prepared well for the painting and studied the historical sources and previous depictions of the king.

Peterssen mastered a variety of genres. In addition to historical painting he also painted landscapes and genre motifs, and he excelled in portraiture.

Text: Marianne Yvenes

From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0


Eilif Peterssen

Painter, Drawing artist, Artist

Born 1852 in Oslo, death 1928 in Lysaker, Bærum

Work info

Creation date:
Other titles:
Christian II undertegner dødsdommen over Torben Oxe (NOR)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Olje på lerret
  • Width: 200.5 cm
  • Height: 141.5 cm
  • Depth: 2.5 cm
Kjøpt med bidrag fra Norsk Kulturfond 1977
Inventory no.:
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Høstland, Børre/Lathion, Jacques