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Mendel Levin Nathanson's Elder Daughters, Bella and Hanna

Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg1820

SMK - Statens Museum for Kunst

SMK - Statens Museum for Kunst

During the years around 1820, C.W. Eckersberg was busy painting portraits of the affluent citizens of Copenhagen. The artist’s greatest patron during his young years, the merchant Mendel Levin Nathanson, commissioned two large family portraits.

The painting's two young girls

In one of the two works he painted Nathanson’s two oldest daughters, Bella and Hanna, in a sparingly furnished drawing room with simple panelling and furniture, including a table bearing a parrot’s cage.

The two girls are shown in uncompromising poses - one strictly frontal, the other strictly from the side – and as they look very much alike, it seems likely that the painter wished to create a variation on a theme; variations like those created by the famous Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen around the same time.

Symbolic readings of the painting

The parrot opens up the scene to symbolic readings. Due to their ability to imitate human voices parrots were often seen as symbols of good breeding, a suitable allusion for a picture of two young middle-class woman. At the same time, however, the caged bird can also be regarded as a metaphor for the two unmarried women’s sheltered situation while waiting - perhaps longing? - to move out into real life.

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Details

  • Title: Mendel Levin Nathanson's Elder Daughters, Bella and Hanna
  • Creator: C.W. Eckersberg
  • Date Created: 1820
  • Værktekst: I årene omkring 1820 var C.W. Eckersberg travlt beskæftiget med at male portrætter af det københavnske borgerskab. Støtte fra grosserer Nathanson Fra sin største støtte i de unge år, grosserer Mendel Levin Nathanson, fik han bestilling på to store familieportrætter, hvilket gav ham økonomisk mulighed for at gifte sig. I det ene af de to bestillingsarbejder malede han Nathansons to ældste døtre, Bella og Hanna, ved siden af et bord med et papegøjebur i en sparsomt udsmykket stue. Maleriets to unge piger De unge pigers kjoler er fint afstemt til værelsets farver, og muligvis har maleren været med til at vælge deres påklædning til billedet. Den ene pige er set strengt frontalt og den anden helt fra siden, og da de ligner hinanden meget, forekommer det sandsynligt, at maleren med grupperingen har villet skabe en variation over et tema, ganske som den berømte danske billedhugger Bertel Thorvaldsen gjorde i sine skulpturer på samme tid. Motivets symbolske karakter Motivet kan tolkes symbolsk, takket være papegøjen. På grund af sin evne til at efterligne menneskers stemmer blev den ofte opfattet som symbol på god opdragelse, hvilket er en passende hentydning, når det gælder to unge, borgerlige kvinder. Men samtidig kan fuglen i buret også ses som et billede på de to ugifte pigers beskyttede situation, mens de venter på og måske længes efter at træde ud i livet.
  • Teknik: Olie på lærred
  • Proveniens: Testamentarisk gave fra Hélène Rée, Paris 1920
  • Provenance: Acquired 1920
  • Physical Dimensions: w85.5 x h125 cm (Without frame)
  • Dansk link: http://www.smk.dk/index.php?id=1172
  • Dansk Titel: Mendel Levin Nathansons ældste døtre, Bella og Hanna
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Statens Museum for Kunst, http://www.smk.dk/en/copyright/creative-commons/
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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