A Fugitive Frida Hansen Tapestry in Hawaii–Some More Clues

I wrote in May about a 1925 tapestry by noted Norwegian artist Frida Hansen, “The Little Mermaid.” (See the full post: “Another Missing Tapestry Mystery to Solve: Frida Hansen’s Mermaid from 1925“) A relative of Hansen’s had sent me a photo. The only clue to its current location was in the list of works compiled by Hansen’s biographer, Anniken Thue. The last time it was exhibited was at the Honolulu Academy of Arts in 1927.

photo from the collection of Finn Levy

I wrote to the Honolulu Museum of Art and received some marvelous clues in a response from an assistant registrar, both about “The Little Mermaid” tapestry and a set of portieres in wool transparency technique (I hadn’t even know about those!). He wrote:

I was able to find the original records for the piece in question, a wool tapestry entitled ‘The Little Mermaid.’ The work was purchased for $500.00 and accessioned into the collection in March of 1927 and was described as being “Wool and silk. Tapestry weave. Colors: shades of pink, blue, yellow, lavender, brown, gray, green, orange, coral and white. Shows a picture of a girl sitting on wide steps above a pond of water, with two pheasants and formalized rose trees in background. Conventionalized border. Fringe of warp threads at each end.”

The piece was purchased along with 2 other pieces by Frida Hansen, a ‘Double Wool Portiere’ described as “Pair. Wool. colors: coral, rose, purple, yellowish-brown, red-brown and white. Repeat pattern of triangular-shaped vases holding conventionalized flowers, in tapestry weave, with background of white warp threads. Border of conventionalized scroll pattern. Fringe of warp threads on each end.”

Both ‘The Little Mermaid’ and the ‘Double Wool Portiere’ were deaccessioned and sold in 1954 to local buyers, the double portier first on April the 20th of that year and ‘The Little Mermaid’ later that October. 

So the next question is naturally, “Who bought them?” I asked the registrar. Because of privacy rules, the names are not public. However, he recognized the name of the person who purchased “The Little Mermaid,” and wrote to a family member asking if they knew of the tapestry and would be willing to tell me. No answer. He asked again after a couple of months; again, no answer. It would be wonderful to get a lively contemporary photo of Frida Hansen’s mermaid from 1925. Perhaps it will turn up yet.

And there is a set of portieres in wool transparency weave too, possibly in Hawaii. Wouldn’t those be fun to find? The search continues.

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