Jan van Huysum's Flower Piece - Henrik Wergeland

The painting ‘Vase with Flowers’ by the Dutch artist Jan van Huysum was in a private collection just outside Christiania (now Oslo) when the Norwegian firebrand and poet Henrik Wergeland saw it early in 1840. It inspired him to write his best-known work, an extraordinary tour-de-force of Nordic Romanticism. The poem adopts a free attitude towards historical events and people, refers to fictitious works of art by real painters, and zigzags between verse and prose in a glorious rejection of conventional literary form. It represents the triumph of Romanticism, its main theme the terrible price of beauty, the high existential cost of art. Wergeland, who died young after a troubled life, knew what he was talking about, and this poem is perhaps his confession.

About the Author

HENRIK WERGELAND (1808-45) is Norway's greatest Romantic poet, idolised as a national figure who was deeply involved in the emergence of Norway into independence after 400 years of Danish rule.

Publication date for Jan van Huysum's Flower Piece: February 2009

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