Interior - 'Pigen dækker Bord'

Vilhelm Hammershøi

(1864 - Copenhagen - 1916)
Oil on canvas 97 x 70 cm (38.2 x 27.6 in.) 1895

In 1892, after a honeymoon spent in Paris, Hammershøi and his wife Ida Ilsted (1869-1949) moved into a rented apartment in a villa named Ny Bakkehus in Frederiksberg near Copenhagen. Here they stayed until 1897, when the building was demolished. During this five-year period Hammershøi’s time was still largely occupied with portraits, figure paintings, cityscapes and landscapes, while scarcely a dozen interiors depicting the couple’s apartment and the shared hall of the villa are known.

The present painting is a fine example of Hammershøi’s early interiors. It is marked by a more refined use of color than in his later work. Here, he explores the reddish tone of the large, centrally placed mahogany armoire as a means of offsetting the startling crisp white of the table cloth. The narrow pictorial space, too, is typical of his other Ny Bakkehus interiors, in which the picture plane is often placed parallel to the back wall and the furniture. He has nevertheless succeeded in creating a powerful, almost exaggerated three-dimensionality by allowing the lower edge of the canvas to crop the front legs of the table. The result is an almost stage-like effect that makes these early interiors so markedly different in spatiality from the more numerous interiors showing Hammershøi’s later home at Strandgade 30.

In this restricted spatial setting, the furniture and the female figure are the sole conveyors of psychological content. Hammershøi – revealing himself as a true member of the Symbolist movement – regarded items of furniture as enigmatic substitutes for human presence. The imposing armoire seems to stand for a kind of petrified emotion which is itself mirrored in the closed expression of the figure setting the table, while her absent, introspective gaze is reiterated by the three boarded-up windows which loom as dark voids in the wall behind. The same modest pieces of furniture would reappear continually in Hammershøi’s interiors – like actors playing different roles. The figure of the young woman – modelled on his wife Ida, his model in a great many of his paintings of interiors – was also a recurrent motif. That furniture should play as important a part as the figure inhabiting the room is a hallmark of Hammershøi’s art. Even so, the celebrated Swedish writer, critic and publicist Olof Lagercrantz – a former owner of the painting – noted that in it he had finally found a work by Hammershøi in which the female model did not simply try to melt into her surroundings. “At least,” he said, “we seem to glimpse a true individual.”

More details


Daxer & Marschall Kunsthandel

"19th Century painting German and Scandinavian Art Plein air painting"

More about the exhibitor

The TEFAF promise - every object is professionally vetted by TEFAF before exhibiting on the fair.