Faces from the past

The portrait of Sophie Thaulow

A small portrait of the eleven-year-old Sophie Thaulow (1836-1851) is the starting point of the many family stories that visitors will get to know in the exhibition “Timescape 1600-1914”. Sophie lived in Storgata 24 in Larvik. She was the daughter of the district judge Hans Henrik Thaulow (1802-1890) and Emma Andrea Thaulow, née Krefting, (1809-1877).

  • Portrett NFT.1926-0008 (Foto/Photo)
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    Portrait of the eleven-year-old Sophie Thaulow, painted by Dorothea Elligers in 1847. Sophie died four years after this picture was painted. Anne-Lise Reinsfelt / Norsk Folkemuseum (Bilde 1 av 5)
  • Storgata 24, Larvik (Foto/Photo)
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    The Thaulow family lived at Storgata 24 in Larvik. Here we see, among others, Hans Henrik Thaulow outside his home. Ukjent / Larvik Museum (Bilde 2 av 5)
  • Daguerreotypi (Foto/Photo)
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    Members of the Norwegian elite were important clients for portrait painters throughout the 19th century, even if the advent of photography in many ways challenged the painted portrait. Sophie’s parents were photographed with the first practicable photographic technique – the daguerreotype – which was used during the period 1839-1857. Ukjent / Norsk Folkemuseum (Bilde 3 av 5)
  • Brodert brikke (Foto/Photo)
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    This little mat was embroidered by Sophie Thaulow. Needlework was a skill young girls were expected to acquire. Anne-Lise Reinsfelt / Norsk Folkemuseum (Bilde 4 av 5)
  • Hårarbeid (Foto/Photo)
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    Box containing nine pieces of hairwork made using six different braiding techniques. They are mainly from hair of Sophie Thaulow and her brother David, who both died as children. Anne-Lise Reinsfelt / Norsk Folkemuseum (Bilde 5 av 5)

The portrait of Sophie was painted in 1847 by Dorothea Elligers (1824-1916) who lived on the same street as the Thaulow family in Larvik. Shortly after she painted this portrait, Dorothea Elligers went to Düsseldorf where she studied under Adolph Tidemand. She was one of the first Norwegian woman artists to study in the renowned arts city. 

Sophie was only 15 when she died of typhoid fever on 8 June 1851. We can imagine that this portrait therefore would have had a very special significance for the family. The painting was not the only thing which kept the memory of Sophie alive. From her hair they had made some delicate braids which were kept in a small box along with the hair of her brother, David, who died at only 14 months. David’s hair was also used to create a small posy, mounted on silk fabric and framed in a gilded frame of pressed paper. Making pictures of jewellery from our own hair or that of others feels rather strange to us today, however in the 1900s this was very common and fashionable. Looking at the portrait of Sophie, it is conceivable that her necklace was made of hair. 

The portrait, the hair objects and several other articles which belonged to Sophie’s family will be shown in the exhibition. The artefacts are from the Thaulow collection at Norsk Folkemuseum.

Article (Norwegian only) in the Museum Bulletin