Whilst neither sitter nor artist are known for the present portrait, there are hints scattered throughout the painting to suggest a strong case for its historical significance. This portrait is believed to be a product of the European School, possibly by an artist native to Norway, dating circa 1800-15.

The unnamed sitter appears to wear a variation of Festdrakt til Østfoldrosen, a type of national dress originating from the Østfold region of Norway. Her costume is adorned with a print containing the Saxifraga Cotyledon, the Norwegian national flower, and a Norwegian Lundehund accompanies the sitter in the foreground of the painting. Notable locations within the Østfold region of Norway include the Håkås farms, an area considered one of the oldest and most fertile agricultural regions in Norway. Håkås was home to many influential Norwegians including, later, Theodor Christian Petersen Haagaas (1873-1961), Norwegian mathematician and private school owner. Earlier residents of the area included Gudmund Danielsen Haukaas (1800-49), one of...

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Whilst neither sitter nor artist are known for the present portrait, there are hints scattered throughout the painting to suggest a strong case for its historical significance. This portrait is believed to be a product of the European School, possibly by an artist native to Norway, dating circa 1800-15.

The unnamed sitter appears to wear a variation of Festdrakt til Østfoldrosen, a type of national dress originating from the Østfold region of Norway. Her costume is adorned with a print containing the Saxifraga Cotyledon, the Norwegian national flower, and a Norwegian Lundehund accompanies the sitter in the foreground of the painting. Notable locations within the Østfold region of Norway include the Håkås farms, an area considered one of the oldest and most fertile agricultural regions in Norway. Håkås was home to many influential Norwegians including, later, Theodor Christian Petersen Haagaas (1873-1961), Norwegian mathematician and private school owner. Earlier residents of the area included Gudmund Danielsen Haukaas (1800-49), one of the first Norwegian settlers in America, who arrived in America on the Restauration Sloop in 1821.

Prior to the development of a standardised Norwegian language, an effort spearheaded by Ivar Aasen in the mid-late 1800s to promote Norwegian identity as separate from Denmark, many Norwegians adopted the name of their town or region as their surname. In theory, this allowed for easy identification and placement of people according to their names. However, a lack of standardised language allowed for differences in spelling and pronunciation. An example of this can be seen in the Håkås region, where surnames would vary between Haagaas, Hougaas, Haukaas, and Haakaas. With his surname suggesting a close connection to Østfold and the Håkås farms, Gudmund Danielsen Haukaas sailed on the 1821 voyage of The Restauration, a sloop carrying the first 52 Norwegian emigrants to America. Pictured in the background of the present portrait is a forest of Blue Spruce (Picea pungens), a problematic addition to its Norwegian provenance when separated from its link to America. Blue spruce (unlike green spruce) does not grow native to Norway, thus its presence within an otherwise extraordinarily Norwegian scene is suggestive of experience of transatlantic travel. The sitter in the portrait is painted holding a letter with an inkpot on her desk. Whilst records are doubtful that the sitter in this portrait ever made it to America, the combination of regional dress, dates, and surnames corresponding to Østfold and the Håkås regions suggest that the sitter could have been acquainted with Gudmund Haukaas.

A further suggestion for the sitter in the portrait may be Tina, wife of John Collett (1758-1810), lumber merchant. He was among Christiania’s (now Oslo) richest men and a central figure in social and cultural life. In 1793 he became the owner of Ullevål farm, which he developed into a model farm with impressive gardens and parks. A portrait miniature of John Collett in the Oslo Museum shows strong stylistic links with the present work, and they may have been conceived as a pair for the couple to exchange. The extensive forest shown in the background of this portrait would have been a suitable focus for the wife of a lumber merchant, the dog and letter symbols of a refined lifestyle, her dress a nod to her heritage.

Whilst the history of this portrait miniature remains uncertain, it is a fascinating hybrid somewhere between the rusticity of the genre of Norwegian Farm Culture and of the specialised, sophisticated art of European portrait miniature painting. There are some links with the drawings of Adolph Tidemand (1814-76), where portraits of sitters who lived and worked on the farms and often wore traditional costume.[1] Alternatively, the work may have been commissioned from an itinerant portrait miniaturist travelling through Norway. Whatever the story behind it, it remains a rare and ambitious depiction in miniature of a sitter in traditional dress, surrounded by her most important accoutrements.

[1] The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design (Nasjonalgalleriet) in Oslo alone owns many of these drawings.

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