Portrait of Louise Marie Neergaard (1816–1895). Signed with monogram and dated Vedbygaard 2 Sept 1842. Drawing ink on paper laid on cardboard. Sheet size 20.5×16 cm. Unframed.
Louise Marie Neergaard was the daughter of Peter Sigvard Neergaard, who in 1818–1845 was the owner of the manor Vedbygaard by Ruds Vedby. Johan Thomas Lundbye first met Louise during a visit to Vedbygaard in August 1839. In May 1841 he paid another visit to the Neergaard family, determined to propose to Louise on this occasion. He never got the courage, however, but for several years he nurtured a secret infatuation with her.
In his diary on 24 March 1842, Lundbye recalls his stay at Vedbygaard in May 1841 and writes the following about the day he had decided to propose to Louise:
“Already the first time I saw Louise Neergaard at Vedbygaard in August 1839, her gentle unassuming nature made a deep impression on me, but I was too young to dare to think of her as my bride. In 1841, shortly before Pentecost in May, I visited Vedby again. My thoughts about her were the same and I felt that the departure would be hard on me. For several days I sought an opportunity to talk to her and confess my love, no matter how shy I was. One wonderful morning, I went down into the garden to the little grove, where I had often strolled with her and sat near the bleaching green on a bench while smoking a small meerschaum pipe, I waited for her to come and see to the bleaching. It was the sweetest morning: weighty drops of dew hung on the blades of grass and flowers and shone in the sun like diamonds. I thought about how I should address her but had to reject everything and instead leave it to my mood how to shape my words. As I sat like this, I suddenly heard footsteps nearby, I jumped up to meet her – it was not her, but a girl who was dealing with the clothes on the green. A mere coincidence thus prevented me from taking a step which I am now glad was not taken, but which I nevertheless long to take. Disappointed, I moved away.”
The present portrait dated “2. Sept 1842”, is from a later visit, where Lundbye stayed at Vedbygaard from 23 August to 8 September 1842. Lundbye did not bring his diary for this visit but has subsequently described the stay (11 September to 2 October). The day after he drew this infatuated portrait of Louise, he wrote: “On the 3rd of September she went with us to a hill which Hans Christian Andersen has christened “Loveliness”. Here, I made a sketch of the area in my long, dear book, which she herself has given me. It was blowing, and she kindly offered to hold on to the page as it fluttered in the wind – oh how delighted I felt as I drew this sketch, her eyes followed my pen, she was sitting there so close to me. If we had been alone, I could have confessed to her, how dear she was to me”.
Lundbye must have given the portrait to Louise, as he writes the following in his diary on 4 October 1842:
“Since I have borrowed LMN's [Louise Marie Neergaard's] portrait of Louise [present portrait], I must, however, make an attempt at what unfortunately will hardly succeed: to copy it. I wish I could have some resemblance in it, for that I would be very pleased. ”
Subsequently, Lundbye has pasted the copy into his diary, and it bears great resemblance to the present, but it may lack the immediacy of the original drawing (the original diary “Et Aar af mit Liv” (A Year of My Life) is in The Royal Library in Copenhagen). Lundbye was not happy with the copy.
He writes in his diary on 15 October, 1842:
“Now I have the wish fulfilled: to get a copy of Louise Neergaard's portrait; but it is bad; I knew it was difficult to copy a loose ink drawing, but I thought that the interest with which I did it, should have brought better luck over this attempt than before, but no! and yet, how often do I not sit and contemplate the bad drawing in which I think I see some of her features.”
Exhibited: Bispegården (the bishop's manor), Kalundborg, “Johan Thomas Lundbye. Værker fra private samlinger”, 2018, no. 22. Reproduced in catalogue.
Provenance: Given as a gift from the artist to the portrayed, Louise Marie Neergaard. Private Danish collection of drawings by Johan Thomas Lundbye.