Tag Archives: Heinrich Maria von Hess paintings knitting portraits fine art

Interruption #5, by Linda

4 Mar
Portrait of Fanny Gail by Heinrich Maria von Hess (1820-21)

Portrait of Fanny Gail by Heinrich Maria von Hess (1820-21)

Knitting . . .

Yup another painting; OK, two paintings. Sorry but some people have asked for more of the same, so as that’s the only feedback I’ve had, you’re stuck with it my dear friends until you ask for something different.  

. . . from start to . . .

This, as you see, is a painting by the Bavarian Heinrich Maria von Hess of Fanny Gail nearly 200 years ago; she’s aged around 13 years and probably at puberty. By holding her knitting correctly she’s showing us that she has a domestic skill.  The spring flowers, fresh sky and little else in the background demonstrate her brief and innocent history.  It could be an advertisement for a marriageable daughter, couldn’t it.  

But every mother looking at this picture knows what she’s seeing in those big, follow-you-round-the-room sad and serious eyes.  There’s an intelligence and a sad knowingness there; Fanny would be wasted on childbearing and household management alone.  And what future can you predict from that concentrated gaze, those competent hands, that stillness?  And what of now, with the unpredictability of that teenage expression: the awkward nose, the mouth about to speak?  

If she speaks to us she will be abrupt, serious, perceptive; but if she is with her friends she will smile and her face will light up. I think that’s where the beauty of this image lies: in the dichotomy between the sweet grace of the composition and the piquant emotions of the sitter. Right now, knitting is no priority for her.

. . . finish

As you can see, the second painting below shows the other end of it: knitting in old age; this time in Russia nearly two decades later. Just look at that bone structure: she was clearly a beauty once, and the artist lights up her best features in a loving glow that could almost be emanating from her knitting.  Here is that spiritual redemption from concentration on skilled work again (see Interruption #3).  This old woman manipulates her knitting, whereas the young woman manipulated us . . . or is the old woman teasing us mischievously by being painted knitting a top-down stocking-top?  

So who is happier?  Who’s got the best deal?  You decide.

Old Woman Knitting (Russian, 1838)

Old Woman Knitting (Russian, 1838)