Reventlow Museum Pederstrup

Reventlow Museum Pederstrup

History of manor culture and the reforms of a nobleman

Once the favourite summer residence of the nobleman, politician, and Enlightenment reformer Count C.D.F. Reventlow, the early 19thcentury main building is now a museum for manorial life and for the reformist period that lay the foundation for the development of modern Denmark.

The Reventlow Museum opened in 1940 in the main building of the Pederstrup manor. The history of the estate can be dated back to the 1340s, while the oldest building traces in the main building are from the 1550s. The museum’s present appearance is the result of restoration and reconstruction in 1940 of the Empire style house that C. D. F. Reventlow commissioned and had built in 1813-22. Today, Pederstrup is one of just a few main buildings in Denmark that are built in the Empire style.In the 1930s, the Reventlow family sold Pederstrup, and the main building and the park were laid out as a museum. In this connection, the main building was brought back to the style of C. D. F. Reventlow’s simple Empire house, which is now located beautifully in the green park surrounded by lakes and woodland. The only remnant that has been preserved from the historicist Pederstrup is the impressive cooking range in the manor kitchen.

The beautifully furnished rooms with their views across the lakes today allow visitors to get close to C. D. F. Reventlow’s everyday life and experience how well-to-do families lived in their stately homes in the decades around 1800. A special exhibition is held in the museum’s living rooms each year.

Christian Ditlev Frederik Count Reventlow

The history of a dynasty

Statesman and social reformer Christian Ditlev Frederik, Count Reventlow (1748-1827) inherited Pederstrup in 1775. As the oldest son in one of Denmark’s wealthiest noble families, he had completed a thorough education that not only equipped him to take over the family’s possessions on Lolland, but also set him on a path towards a career in the central government in Copenhagen. C. D. F. Reventlow completed his education in 1773 when he returned home after a couple of years’ studies at the university in Leipzig and a subsequent Grand Tour of Europe. Here, he had been introduced to new thoughts and ideas about society’s setup and the rural population’s living conditions, fostered by the great philosophers and economists of the age.

Towards the pinnacle of power
In 1748, the young Crown Prince Frederik (VI) was confirmed and then given a seat in the Council of State, backed by a number of influential men, including C. D. F. Reventlow, the young Crown Prince seized power at his first meeting with the Council of State, thus incapacitating the conservative government that had ruled the realm since 1772.

Agrarian reforms
This paved the way for a whole string of reforms in Denmark collectively referred to as the Agrarian Reforms. Marked by the enlightenment thinking and new economic ideas of the period, a steady stream of reforms were elaborated – primarily targeted at the agricultural sector, the principal industry in Denmark. The abolition of adscription, conservation of the forests and the adoption of the first national Education Acts are just a few of the measures that C. D. F. Reventlow would instigate along with the Crown Prince.

Crisis and stagnation
Denmark got involved on the French side in the war between France and England. In 1813, the Danish realm went bankrupt, and the following year, Denmark had to cede Norway to Sweden. The positive spirit of the time that had characterised the great reform work was now succeeded by crisis and stagnation. At the same time, C. D. F. Reventlow was isolated politically.

The last years
In 1813 – at the age of 65 – C. D. F. Reventlow chose to retire from government work in order to settle at Pederstrup with his wife and the couple’s nine children. He lived here through to 1827, when he passed away aged 79.

The museum’s collection consists of paintings and objects related to C. D. F. Reventlow, the Agrarian Reforms and the people who helped launch this great work.

Yours, Frederikke Reventlow 

An interesting female perspective is given by letters written by the wife of C. D. F. Reventlow

”I seek you once again in the green temple, to converse an hour’s time with you, or stroll with you in your thicket, between flowering jasmines and rose bushes; there we could perhaps also talk about the major events of our time, which will cast blessings or misfortune on our descendents to come. I hope for the first …”
On the intimacy Frederikke and Louise shared, 1791

From her marriage to Christian Ditlev Frederik Reventlow in 1774, until her death in 1822, Frederikke Reventlow exchanged weekly letters with her sister-in-law Louise Stolberg. Despite the fact that they rarely saw one another, the two friends had a confidential and close relationship that lasted over six decades and was expressed in the letters they wrote to each other. On of Museum Lolland-Falster’s annual exhibition was based on a selection of the letters Frederikke wrote to Louise. It is in these letters that she puts the life she lived and the thoughts she had about existence and the major events of one of Denmark’s most turbulent periods of history into words.

Frederikke’s letters are a key to understanding the developments society and family life underwent at the end of the 1700s. Whilst war and economic depression rolled over Denmark’s borders, and the winds of political change blew in France, new values based on close family ties and a happy marriage gained ground. Values that Frederikke, in the many letters and papers she left to posterity, was an early spokeswoman for. In Frederikke’s own words, letters give insight into a world of happy family times, the glamour and festivity of royal balls, and the joys and sorrows of raising children. Her letters also chart the political and literary debates of the time, all of which contributed to the values of society today.

The exhibition was curated by Mia Ramsing Jensen (MA) and museum curator Jesper Munk Andersen.

Read more: ExhibitionTextsLife_FrederikkeCharlotteReventlow