In a number of paintings Pehr Hilleström was engaged to depict the furnace-lit interiors of forges and foundries connected to the Swedish iron making manor estates of the late 18th century. In this picture the scene is from the anchor forge at Söderfors, in the province of Uppland. During the early industrial period the iron making estates of this region were of crucial importance to the economic life of Sweden.
The painting shows a realistic scene of the forge, were the then world famous anchors of Söderfors were being made – many of which were exported to England. The owner of this specific ironwork, Adolf Ulrik Grill, commissioned the monumental interior of his anchor-forge in 1782. He is himself visible in the picture, as the well-dressed man to the right inviting a group of fancy visitors into the dark and dramatically lit room. The importance of this commission is underlined by its monumental size – the width of the canvas measures nearly two meters.
Historians have noted the extreme truthfulness in all details in Hilleström’s industrial scenes. Through this quality, his paintings are invaluable sources for our knowledge of early industrial history, but this phenomenon also tells us something about their contemporary reception. Even though these scenes certainly can convey something of a romantic atmosphere, they were not solely intended as theatrical tableaux. Instead the correctness of the technical details gives evidence to the engagement and the pride that the Swedish society attached to the iron making industry in the 18th century.