A pregnant woman and her two small children are following their husband/father to his grave. A thoroughly tragic situation that Henningsen has chosen to accentuate with gloomy winter weather, a meagre gathering, and the woman’s greyish-white complexion.
A burial among the poor, conducted at the Assistens graveyard in the Nørrebro area of Copenhagen. At first glance, the painting seems to be a realistic record of a tragic, life-changing event. However, the artist has employed a number of effective devices in order to intensify the unhappy story. The gloomy winter weather, the naked wall, the small number of people in the gathering, the children in the middle, the greyish-white complexion of the young woman’s face. She even appears to be pregnant and now only has her old father to lean on. Every device is brought to bear in order to accentuate the hopelessness of the situation. Henningsen received a great deal of praise for the painting, which was immediately bought by the National Gallery of Denmark. However, a few critics would like to have seen more intimacy and credibility. Perhaps this is because the painting leaves us as spectators, as an audience, like the two men in the middle distance who are safely distanced from the family. Rather than a rousing call to arms against social injustice, the artist delivers a touching story from everyday life to move the many citizens of Copenhagen as they visited the major exhibitions of the day.