Sørover (Southward) at the Manhattan Winter Show

It’s April, and it’s not the Armory, but it is still the iconic “Winter Show.” When the show was postponed due to Omicron, the Armory was not available and it moved to the former Barney’s department store building on Madison Avenue. I feel privileged to help out in the booth of Peter Pap, the dealer who is handling the sale of Frida Hansen’s monumental 1903 tapestry. As the unofficial number one fan of Frida Hansen in North America, I have the opportunity, for the first two days of the show, to talk about Frida Hansen and the tapestry with many interested people. And here it is, after careful cleaning lifted a 120-year veil of dust from the wooly fibers.

A photo can never do justice to the real object, of course. The photo adds a shade too much contrast, but it demonstrates well that the border colors that are close in value are enlivened and clearer.

Visitors at the Winter Show opening were amazed at the beauty of the tapestry, and interested in the related stories–of Frida Hansen as an artist and the interesting history of the tapestry in the U.S. One young woman, a reporter at Women’s Wear Daily, asked many questions and then commented, “They look like strong women.” That is true of the women depicted in Hansen’s tapestries (and it is almost always women); they are active, not passive or frail. Peter Pap added, “Yes, they have biceps.”

A dealer in antique Chinese furniture stopped by and said, “This is the most beautiful object in the show–and I’ve been through the whole show twice.” The New York Times reviewer Will Heinrich included Southward in his review of the Winter Show, “Treasure Hunting at the Winter Show.” It was unfortunate that they sent their own photographer rather than use the image that Peter Pap could supply. Their washed-out photo looks more like the tapestry before washing restored the vibrancy of its colors.

When Peter Pap discovered the tapestry, it was in a plastic storage bin, part of the estate of his friend David McInnis. McInnis’s widow and three children were able to come to the opening and see the glorious cleaned tapestry. It was interesting to talk to them. Family members were aware that David had an important Scandinavian tapestry. He often hung items in his inventory in the house for a while, enjoying them before selling them. But Southward was too large to hang in their home, so the first time his widow and children saw the unfolded tapestry was after his death. David McInnis knew Southward was an important piece, and would draw attention when he decided to sell it. He kept it as his form of money in the bank. We only wish he kept better records. David McInnis obtained it sometime between 2003 and 2011. Maybe he told his wife about buying it, or trading for it at the time, but Helen McInnis said, “I was busy raising three children and teaching; I didn’t pay attention to his business, too.”

The opening was fancy. This was the best-dressed couple I had the pleasure of sharing my knowledge of Frida Hansen with. They were very interested. And his pants!

My next post will be about the incredibly interesting and complex border. Kelp. Seaweed.

Remember, the background articles on Southward–its rediscovery, the places it was exhibited, and the cleaning of the tapestry–can be found at norwegiantextileletter.com.

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