Johan Thomas Lundbye (b. Kalundborg 1818, d. Bedsted 1848)

“Brev med dværgen Sindre [selvportræt] som vignet”. Letter with the dwarf Sindre [self-portrait] as vignette. 1845. Drawing ink and watercolour on paper. 17.2×19.5 cm.

A Christmas letter from Lundbye to his friends in Copenhagen, written in Rome around 5 November 1845. The letter is the only place where Lundbye's hill troll is mentioned by the name 'Sindre'.

Exhibited: The Hirschsprung Collection, “Tegninger og Huletanker. Johan Thomas Lundbye 1818–1848”, 1998/1999, cat. no. 285. Reproduced in catalogue p. 58 and p. 310, mentioned pp. 58–60. Bispegården, Kalundborg, “Johan Thomas Lundbye. Værker fra private samlinger”, 2018, no. 27. Reproduced p. 59 (full page) in the catalogue.

Literature: Marianne Saabye and Iver Kjær, “Rejse til bakketroldens indre” in “Tegninger og Huletanker. Johan Thomas Lundbye 1818–1848”, 1998, pp. 58–60. The entire wording of the letter is reproduced here.

The authors write about the letter: “In the beginning of November that same autumn, Lundbye draws himself as a dwarf in a letter to the Danish friends. Initially, the figure appears on a sketchbook page together with a few studies of the colourful public life on Piazza Barberini, which Lundbye had observed from his window, presumably in the days between 3 and 8 November. The small, coloured sketch was finished as a vignette at the top of a Christmas card he sent around on 5 November to his friends, and in particular all the small children he knew at home. With hat in hand the dwarf presents himself as Sindre:” (p. 58).

After this, all the content of the letter is reproduced (pp. 58–59). The authors continue to write after the letter: “In this letter, the hill troll has been given the name Sindre, i.e. the skilful blacksmith of the Edda. In his monograph on Lundbye, Karl Madsen picked up on the name Sindre, and it has since then followed Lundbye's hill trolls and his self-portrait as a dwarf in his ”Trolddom og Hule-Tanker" (Sorcery and Cave Thoughts). However, it is worth noting that this is the only place where Lundbye mentions the name. He usually omits the name of the main character of the sketchbook entirely but occasionally calls him the blacksmith, the hill troll or the dwarf. With the drawing and use of the name Sindre, Lundbye has emphasized that it is a real dwarf. That Svend Grundtvig has understood this point appears from his reply in a letter dated 5 December: “Today, Skovgaard came up to me with a small hill troll – I beg your pardon, I meant to say dwarf – who had greetings to bring from friends in Rome ...” The dwarf's face has a pronounced expression of a self-portrait and a realism that stands in contrast to the figure’s usual depiction. The dwarf stands with the cap in one hand and a staff in the other. The depiction of the figure bears a striking resemblance to Jens Juel's famous painting and drawing of the Roman dwarf Francesco Ravai, called Bajocco 1774–76 (National Gallery of Denmark inv. no. KMS370). This applies to both the physiognomy, the insistent gaze and the position itself with the hat in one hand and the beggar’s staff in the other. However, Lundbye's figure is a mirror image of Juel's dwarf [...] Lundbye had no direct resemblance to the dwarves, but in his darker moments he could feel a kinship, spiritually as well as physically ..." (pp. 59–60).

Provenance: Bruun Rasmussen auction 587, 1993 no. 448. Private Danish collection of drawings by Johan Thomas Lundbye.


Condition report on request. Please contact: fine-art@bruun-rasmussen.dk

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