Hans Christensen drawings

RIT Art Collection

Table of Contents

Collection Overview
Biographical Information for Hans Christensen
Scope and Content
Additional Finding Aids
Subject Headings
Information for Researchers
Administrative Information
Related Materials

Collection Overview (Collapse)

Hans Christensen drawings
Christensen, Hans, 1924-1983
Inclusive Date(s)
circa 1967
Pencil drawings of designs created by Hans Christensen, the renowned silversmith and Rochester Institute of Technology professor. Five of the drawings are of a spice box, while one is of a ceremonial mace presented to Mark Ellingson.
2.38 Linear feet (1 flat file drawer)
Reading room flat files, Drawer 15
RIT Archive Collections
RIT Libraries
Wallace Center
90 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester, New York, 14623
(585) 475-2557

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Biographical Information for Hans Christensen (Collapse)

Hans Jorgen Thorvald Christensen (1924-1983) was born in Copenhagen, Denmark on January 21, 1924. An aspiring artist, Christensen was exposed to the world of art from a young age. His father, Holger, was an accountant with clients involved in the fields of art and architecture, while his mother, Valborg (née Makkenbol) also expressed interest in the field. Although Holger wanted his son to enter the business world, he supported his son's interest in the art-field, pushing him toward a career in silversmithing.

In 1939, Christensen started as an apprentice at the world-renowned Georg Jensen Silversmithy, while simultaneously taking classes at the School of Arts and Crafts in Copenhagen. His journeyman project – a teapot – not only earned him his silversmith certificate on March 30, 1944, but also won him two silver medallions. A rare accomplishment, these two awards were given in the categories of design and execution and were presented by King Frederick IX of Denmark.

Christensen continued working at Georg Jensen Silversmithy in the prototype department. In 1952, he traveled to the United States as a representative for an exhibition of Jensen factory works at the Museum of Modern Art. Although encouraged to stay in America, Christensen returned to Denmark. From 1952-1954, he worked as the lead silversmith in the prototype department and in 1953 he earned the equivalent of a master's degree in the field.

Christensen immigrated to the United States in 1954 when he accepted a faculty position at the School for the American Craftsman at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He was named professor in 1963 and was chosen for the Charlotte Fredericks Mowris Professorship in Contemporary Arts in 1976 as its first recipient. Christensen taught at the school for 29 years until his untimely death in an automobile accident on January 16, 1983. He was awarded the Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching by RIT posthumously in 1983.

A distinguished artist, Christensen earned many honors throughout his lifetime. He was awarded membership into the International Institute of Arts and Letter in Switzerland (1960) and the College of Fellows of the American Crafts Council (1979), as well as the Guldsmedehoikoleforeningen, Copenhagen, the Society of North American Goldsmiths, and the Nathaniel Rochester Society. In 1979, he was also chosen to represent Rochester, NY at the Rennes World Trade Fair held in Rennes, France. Internationally-renowned, Christensen's works are included in the collections of various royal families including Denmark, Norway, Sweden, England, and Iran, as well as the Vatican.

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Scope and Content (Collapse)

The Hans Christensen drawings consist of six pencil drawings of Christensen's silverwork designs. The first five drawings (17½ × 12") depict a spice box and are accompanied by the following description:

Spicebox designed as a symbol of separating the holy from the profane, Israel from the heathen, and sabbath from the six working days. It marks the end of the sabbath rest, it also marks the beginning of a new week of labor. Designed both to divine the future and to forefend evil.

The last drawing (11 × 28½") is of a ceremonial mace that was made in honor of Mark Ellingson, president of the Rochester Institute of Technology from 1936-1969. The item was presented to Ellingson in 1967 in honor of his 30th anniversary as president and was commissioned by the Board of Trustees. According to the Summer 1967 RIT Reporter, the mace was to be "prominently displayed in all assemblies and convocations, and carried at the head of all formal processions signifying the authority, purpose, stability and continuity of the Institute's activities."

The mace was made of sterling silver and contained two hemispheres encircled by a band. Harold James Brennan, a former Dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts described the mace in a letter. Brennan explained, "The symbolism of the mace involves an ornamental device of two hemispheres with an encircling band of silver - a world divided and unified by education." Currently, the mace is part of the RIT Art Collection.

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Arrangement (Collapse)

Materials are grouped by the item they depict. The first five drawings represent Christensen's spice box, while the last drawing is of the ceremonial mace.

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Additional Finding Aids (Collapse)

In addition to this finding aid, an inventory is available below. For more information, please contact the RIT Archive Collections.

Hans Christensen drawings

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Subject Headings (Collapse)

Personal Name(s)

  • Christensen, Hans, 1924-1983
  • Ellingson, Mark, 1904-1993

Corporate Name(s)

  • Rochester Institute of Technology. School for American Craftsmen.


  • Ceremonial maces
  • Silversmiths
  • Silverwork -- New York (State) -- Rochester
  • Spice boxes


  • Drawings (visual works)

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Information for Researchers (Collapse)

Preferred Citation

Hans Christensen drawings, RIT Art Collection

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open to researchers.

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Administrative Information (Collapse)

Collection ID


Processing Information

Finding aid created by Lara Nicosia in January 2011.

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Related Materials (Collapse)

RIT Archives

Collection on Hans Christensen

RIT Art Collection

Hans Christensen silver

Other Collections

RIT's Melbert B. Cary, Jr. Graphic Arts Collection has two pieces crafted by Christensen in its collection. Please contact the RIT Archive Collections for more information.

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