The firm of A. Borgen & Co were importers of Danish manufactures and works of art and also the sole agents in England of the Royal Porcelain Manufactory in Copenhagen. Its ‘Royal Danish galleries’ opened on Bond Street in 1869, familiarising a wider public to Danish goldsmiths’ work, and especially that of Christesen and his contemporary Dahl. By that time the firm of Christesen had already participated in the 1867 Exposition Universelle in Paris under its own name and amongst the few examples of jewellery illustrated by The Art Journal of that year is an engraving of a bracelet by ‘Herr Christesen, of Copenhagen, one of the many beautiful works in gold by that manufacturer’ (p.175).
Christesen is also listed in the Official catalogue of the Workmen’s International Exhibition (p.49), held in London in 1870. Exhibited by the London agents Messrs. Borgen, Christesen’s jewellery was much admired and The Art Journal gave it great prominence: ‘The Danish exhibits of jewellery are of the highest merit. The gold of which they are made, though only of 14 carat standard, has a colour superior to the 16ct gold of the English goldsmiths. The designs are for the most part taken from Ancient Norse patterns preserved in the Archaeological Museum at Copenhagen. Some of the ornamental work is in a sort of appliqué filigree, which recalls the revival of the art of the ancient Italian goldsmiths. Other patterns are essentially Norse. [… ] the contrivances for fastening these ornaments as well as the bracelets, are very ingenious. It would seem as if the ancient Danish workers had not only a special traditional Art-training of their own, but a kind of instinctive perception of the laws of harmony and design’ (p267-268).
The firm took part in all subsequent major exhibitions, (significantly, under its own name at the London 1871 exhibition), displaying revivals of traditional peasant ornaments with filigree alongside Archaeological style jewellery. Both styles were purchased by the South Kensington Museum in 1867 and by the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Vienna in 1873.
For the Exposition Universelle in Paris of 1889, Christesen issued a complete catalogue that revealed the firm’s fertile imagination, including bracelets and diadems that matched Viking and Bronze Age style jewellery that was presented to Princess Alexandra (sister of the Princess Dagmar) on her wedding to the Prince of Wales in 1863.
Being Danish born, the ceremony marked an opportunity for lavish gifts to the Princess in the new national style, and her trousseau contained at least five different gifts of jewellery inspired by Danish antiquities. The wedding gifts were displayed in their entirety at the South Kensington Museum in 1863 and no less that 5,930 people paid to see them on the first day of opening. Although the gem-set gifts of jewellery must have been a huge draw, this was an opportunity for the Danish style pieces to be seen by an unprecedented number of visitors. The fact that the Princess subsequently patronised Borgen’s Danish galleries must have influenced the tastes of British buyers.