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"Professor Jens Schou (1854-1935): Provenance re. Thorvald Bindesbøll Ceramic Jar"

By Richard Joslin (4 April 2019)

Professor Jens Schou's private clinic at Martinsvej no.8 in Fredericksberg, Copenhagen.

Jens Schou, a pre-eminent alumnus in the history of Danish medicine, was born in Vejle in the south-east of Jutland on 28 September 1854.

He qualified in 1879 and became registrar at the Garrisons Hospital from 1880-1881. The following year he became Professor of Anatomy and two years later Consultant at Fredericksberg Hospital until 1887.

From 1888, Jens Schou was a consultant at Camillus Nyrop's establishment, and from 1893–94 he worked at J.Chievitz’s hospital for infectious diseases, where he served as Professor of Anatomy.

The year 1899 saw him as Senior Consultant at Joseph’s Hospital. Whilst at St. Joseph’s he acted as life surgeon to His Majesty King Christian IX from 1899-1906. He was co-editor at the Weekly Journal for Doctors and also a member of The Board of Directors for the Carnegie Foundations.

In his surgical practice, he ran a private clinic in Gothersgade in the centre of Copenhagen, and between 1886-1911 he was a lecturer on current surgical issues on the General Medical Board, these lectures highlighted by his own vast experience; between 1893–1903 he was also co-editor of “Ugeskrift for Læger” ("Weekly Journal for Doctors").

Contemporary sources cite Professor Schou as “blessed with a cool, clear brain”, and his undoubted technical skills allowed him to gain great prominence very swiftly, as his reputation accelerated.

In 1910, to accommodate and minister to his ever growing private clientele, Jens Schou  opened an exclusive and much sought-after private clinic at Martinsvej no.8 in a quiet and secluded cul-de-sac in fashionable Fredericksberg, in the heart of Copenhagen.

Martinsvej No.8 was specially commisioned by Professor Schou from the renowned Danish architect Rolf Schroeder (1872-1948), and it became one of the architect’s best-known projects.

Built in the high baroque German style of the late 19th and early 20th century, the building essentially comprised an imposing block which encompassed an inner courtyard. The building itself was richly adorned by sweeping, foliate motifs in the “Skønvirke”  style, the Danish equivalent to the Art Nouveau period in France and Belgium, and Jugendstil in Germany and Austria.

As well as being the life surgeon to King Christian IX , Professor Schou also became personal physician as well as a close friend to his daughter, Princess Dagmar (1847-1928), upon her return to Copenhagen from Russia.

Princess Dagmar became Maria Feodorovna, Empress of All Russia when she married Tsar Alexander III (1881-1894). Her eldest son was the ill-fated Tsar Nicholas II, the last Tsar to rule Russia.

Maria Feodorovna, whilst Empress, gifted Professor Schou, as a token of her respect and affection, an exquisite imperial presentation silver-gilt cloissone kovsh (a traditional Russian drinking vessel), resplendent with amethysts, the kovsh in the shape of an exotic stylised bird with Maria Feodorovna’s  personal inscription to Professor Schou and a hearfelt message on the underside of the vessel; this was beautifully presented in a velvet lined wooden casket, adorned with the Russian imperial crest.

The kovsh was specially commissioned by the Empress from the celebrated Pavel Ovchinnikov (1830-1888), who was officially appointed Court Jeweller to Tsar Alexander III in 1865, and to King Christian IX in 1888.

This exceptional object was auctioned at Christie’s, King Street in London in 1971; it had been consigned for sale by Dorrit Klenow Joslin, the great niece of Professor Schou. Today, the kovsh is in the collection of the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

When His Majesty, King Edward VII visited Denmark in 1904, according to the “London Gazette” of April that year, he bestowed upon the Professor the title of Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (C.V.O.).

In 1918, at the height of his fame and with a truly international reputation, the Professor decided to retire and he sold his private clinic at Martinsvej.

The year previously – 1917 – he had acquired a magnificent country estate and farm at Astrup on the Isle of Zeeland, this comprising, in addition to extensive arable landholding, a thousand acres of woodland and the enchanting five hundred acre lake of Skarresø – today cherished as an area of outstanding natural beauty, replete with wildlife, flora and fauna.

Jens Schou was in possession of great business expertise, and over the years he amassed considerable wealth; a noted philanthropist, he gifted one million Danish Krone to medical charities in his will.

He died in Frederiksberg on 24 April 1935 and is buried in Copenhagen (Vestre). 



1904: Commander of the Royal Victorian Order

1916: Commander 1st Class of the Order of the Dannebrog


Autobiography in Festskr. ed. by Kbh.s univ. November 1884 34f. - Copenhagen

University's Yearbook 1898–1901 352–55. 

Krak’s 1930 publication

Ernst Schmiegelow in Hospital time. LXXVIII, 1935 505–07. 

HS Bülmann in the North. medical t. X, Helsinki s. II 1120f. L. Power in Asclepius' servants, ed. Anker Aggebo II, 1937 26.

Gyldendal: “Den Store Danske”

Dansk Biografisk Leksikon, published 1933-44

E. Dahl-Iversen: Our surgical heritage, 1960 = Festkr. ed. by Kbh.s univ. May 1960 312–27

Otto C. Aagaard: Jens Schou in Danish Biographical Encyclopedia , 3rd edition, Gyldendal 1979-84. Downloaded April 19, 2019 from