A mermaid. Unsigned. Oil on canvas. 97×130 cm.
Literature: Jerzy Miskowiak, “Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann. Nationalromantikkens enfant terrible.”, Frydenlund 2018 mentioned and reproduced p. 106, where the author describes the mermaid's body as 'eroticized'.
Jerzy Miskowiak, “Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann”, (English/Polish text), Bosz, Polen 2020, no. 95 reproduced p. 96.
Provenance: “Store Kro” in Fredensborg.
Elisabeth Jerichau Baumann was one of the most productive female painters on the Danish and international art scene of the 19th century. Her large figurative motifs made her one of a kind. Elisabeth Jerichau Baumann's mermaid paintings are good examples of both her creative mind and her ability to paint figure compositions.
Today, it is still unknown how many mermaids Jerichau Baumann painted, as she exhibited several works abroad, including at the World Fair in London in 1862 and in Vienna in 1873. Two different types can be found in Danish museums, namely a version from 1863 at Brandts in Odense and a version from 1873 in New Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen (inv. no. MIN 0894).
The mermaid motif was popular in the 19th century. Both Elisabeth Jerichau Baumann's husband, the sculptor Jens Adolf Jerichau (1816–1883), and a long-time friend of the family, the fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1874), worked with the mermaid theme. The latter even made a short poem to Jerichau Baumann about the mermaid, after she had donated him one of her mermaid paintings as a birthday present.
“Du raader over Farvernes Pragt!
Du Sjæl har i Havfruens Øjne lagt:
Et Blink fra dig selv, Fra Aandens Magt!
Min Tak her i fattige Ord er sagt”.
“You master the splendour of colours”
A soul you have placed in the mermaid's eyes:
A wink from you, from the spirit's power!
My gratitude here expressed in mere words"