First name:
20th century
Field of expertise:
Place of birth:
Stege (DNK)
* 21.02.1852
† 17.07.1936
Biography print

Danish artist and long-term psychiatric patient.


Karoline Ebbesen (1852-1936) was born on the island of Møn (Denmark) as the youngest of three children. Her father, a goldsmith, died in 1854. Her mother remarried, gave birth to another daughter, and, together with her new husband, opened a dentistry practice and goldsmith’s workshop in Copenhagen in 1862. Ebbesen’s stepfather died in 1870 and her two older siblings died in 1872 and 1873. In the wake of these events, she repeatedly dropped into psychological crises. Around 1884, at the latest, she was generally regarded as mentally deranged. She was committed to St. Hans Hospital in Copenhagen for the first time on 13 March 1885, became a permanent patient in June of 1887 and was eventually transferred to the long-term care department in 1892. Her medical file lists sexualised delusions, eating disorders and aggressive behaviour (Reisby & Skogeman 1985/1989: 13 f.).


According to the records, Ebbesen became calmer around 1897 and was able to work at the hospital laundry. It was around the same time that she began to invent languages of her own, decorate her room with various materials and produce embroideries, needleworks and, from 1917 onwards, also coloured drawings. Her doctor, P. Dich, noted in her file that when forbidden to pursue her artistic activities, she refused to do her laundry work. Around 1920, she reportedly gained weight and became ever more uncommunicative. Later, in 1922, she declared that her name was “Queen Abil”. Karoline Ebbesen died of cancer at St. Hans Hospital in 1936, after almost 50 years at the clinic.



Reisby, N. (1977): Billeder og psykisk sygdom. Arbejder fra Sct. Hans Hospital Museum. Copenhagen: Forum.

Reisby, N. (1979): Psykiatrien og de syges billeder. In: Louisiana revy 20, pp. 6-8.

Reisby, N., P. Skogemann (1985): Karolines bog. Copenhagen: Rosinante aps.

Prinzhorn, H. (1922): Bildnerei der Geisteskranken. Ein Beitrag zur Psychologie und Psychotherapie der Gestaltung. Berlin: Springer.

Storm, L. (1985): Elske vil jeg og leve glad. Caroline Ebbesen. 1852-1936. Copenhagen: Flox.

Koch, N., R. M. Tillisch (1986): Det uudsidelige. Billedkunst som kvindetolkning. Copenhagen: Melusine.

Storm, L. (1987): Se lys ville jeg. Caroline Ebbesen. 1852-1936. Frederiksberg: Flox.


Robin Pape


Referencing format
Robin Pape (2015): Ebbesen, Karoline.
In: Biographisches Archiv der Psychiatrie.
(retrieved on:22.02.2024)