The merchant Niels Ryberg is shown sitting on a bench in the parklands of the manor house Frederiksgave on Funen, with his son Johan Christian and his daughter-in-law Engelke in front of him.
The son makes a gesture with his hand, as though to show off the family estate. There is a strong feeling of harmony between the people and the countryside in which they are placed, and the picture reflects the new interest in nature that emerged all over Europe towards the end of the 18th century.
It also, however, demonstrates how Denmark’s new rich of the time wished to carry themselves on a par with the dominant social group, the aristocracy. Ryberg and his son appear as distinguished as the many aristocrats that Juel also portrayed.
Jens Juel was by far the leading portrait painter in Denmark during the years leading up to 1800, creating more than a thousand portraits during his career. Juel always made sure that his models looked their best. His pictures are characterised by elegance and carefully rendered details. Juel was excellent at capturing the latest trends, and his art reflects the transition from the lofty portrayals of the Rococo to more realistic depictions. However, the picture of the Ryberg family also has a classical feel. This painting is certainly Juel’s largest work.