A farewell scene, n.d.
Oil on canvas, 27 x 32 cm.
Inventory number: 0184NMK
Gift from stockbroker P. Rørvig, 2000
In his later works, Abildgaard often painted both small and large scenes from antiquity featuring universal themes. This farewell scene, for instance, has sorrow as its overarching theme. Two woebegone women and children lovingly embrace an older man in a goodbye-hug. One woman has her face buried in her hands, while the other looks despairingly at the man, who stares blankly into space with a grim expression. A young gentleman wearing a red outfit watches the scene unfold in a contemplative position. By reading the scene from left to right, the subject illustrates two of the stages of grief. The women and children to the left illustrate the sorrow of the imminent goodbye, while the young man with his distant expression and contemplative position illustrates the melancholy and emptiness that follows later.
Nicolai Abildgaard (1743–1809)
Abildgaard belongs to the generation before the Golden Age painters. He was among the Danish artists who carried out Grand Tours abroad, particularly to Italy. During his years of travel, the time in Rome was critical. Here, Abildgaard studied antique art and great Renaissance and Baroque artists such as Raphael and Annibale Caracci. In Rome, he also met the Swiss-British painter Johan Heinrich Füssli, whose demonic pictorial universe made a great impression on him. Abildgaard was a learned man with a broad interest in history, mythology and art theory alike, and the inspiration for his subjects was primarily found in the literary world. His masterpiece consisted of ten large paintings for the great hall at Christiansborg, of which seven were lost in the fire of 1794.