Every time I publish an issue of The Norwegian Textile Letter, I feel the content is rich and that many weavers and textile lovers will be pleased to read about artists or Scandinavian weaving techniques or interesting new or historical Norwegian textiles. But the issue published yesterday? That was exciting to release, the news that a missing monumental tapestry by Frida Hansen has been found.
Frida Hansen’s 1903 tapestry, Sørover (Southward), was purchased by Brooklyn weaving teacher and socialite, Berthea Aske Bergh. It came to the U.S. and was displayed many times up to 1931. Then—no evidence of what happened! Only a few black-and-white photos remained. Now we can see the red hair of the maidens on swans and the beautiful blues of the waves. Go to the issue to read five articles about the discovery: the announcement; a close look at the tapestry details; cleaning the tapestry in Denver; a list of the U.S. exhibits before the tapestry disappeared, and a brief biography of Frida Hansen.
So remember–only a black-and-white photo was available until now.
What a joy it is to see Frida Hansen’s colors. Keep in mind that this photo was taken before the cleaning.
How did I get involved in this mystery? A few years ago a curator from the Milwaukee Museum of Art was putting together the exhibit Scandinavian Design in the United States: 1890-1980. (The show has taken place in Milwaukee, and is still coming up at the Los Angeles Museum of Art.) Monica Obinski had read about Frida Hansen’s tapestry and wondered if I knew where it was. No, but that seemed like a good challenge! I put all my librarian skills to good use, searching online. I did research in the Archives at the New York Public Library and at the Brooklyn Museum, and searched the records of the Probate Court in Brooklyn. No luck! I wrote this article: Frida Hansen: Will We Ever See her Woven Swans and Maidens? (November 2018)
So in 2021, when Peter Pap opened a large plastic container holding a dusty tapestry with Frida Hansen’s name woven in, he did a bit of searching online, and voila, all the existing information about the tapestry came up in my article. He contacted me with the surprising news.
It was really a privilege to view the cleaning of the tapestry in Denver (Finding Frida Hansen’s Colors Again: Cleaning Southward), but I didn’t get to see the final result. The whole procedure was scheduled to wrap up after a day and a half. A snowstorm was going to bear down on the region and I needed to leave or be stranded for days. So when I went to see what was going to be the final result after drying, Robert Mann said it needed to be washed again. And then it turned out to be two more times! I am as excited as anyone else (no, more excited than anyone else) to see the final cleaned tapestry in New York. I’ve seen photos.
Southward, in all its restored glory, will be exhibited and for sale by Peter Pap at the Winter Show in New York City from April 1-10, 2022. This will be the first public opportunity to see this magnificent tapestry in 91 years. Perhaps I’ll see you there?
Even if you can’t visit the Winter Show, you can look forward to a virtual look at the tapestry with its color restored by expert cleaning. (The difference is amazing.) Photos will be released publicly at the time of the Winter Show opening (and also shared via the Norwegian Textile Letter).