Jesper Wung-Sung

Jesper Wung-Sung, writer

It is an alluring image. a strong, sober, almost ruthless portrait.

Vilhelm Hammershøi: Portrait of The Artist’s Wife, Ida Hammershøi, née Ilsted, 1907.

"Ever since I was a young man and knew only a little about Vilhelm Hammershøi and nothing about Ida, I have been fascinated by this painting. Many years later, this was the picture that prompted me to actually get to work on my novel Kvinde set fra ryggen about Ida and Vilhelm.

It is an alluring image. a strong, sober, almost ruthless portrait. Hammershøi depicts Ida with coarse, cramped hands, sallow skin, dry hair, wrinkles, tendons, furrows, broken capillaries and dark circles under the tired eyes. 

Everything is included here, speaking of a woman marked by the life she has led. But it is also a loving portrait. It says, in summary: Here is the person I’ve spent my life with.

Finally, there is the luminous forehead, which makes the gaze feel more introspective than exhausted. It is as if Hammershøi finally admits: there is a world behind that forehead that I do not know. These conflicting and yet cohesive features and strokes are what make this painting so unique and poignant. Because there she is. Ida.

The work is on display at level 8

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