Jørgen Valentin Sonne (1801-90), Midsummer’s Eve. Sick People Asleep upon the Grave of St Helena at Tisvilde, 1847
Jørgen Sonne has painted a group of sick people who have gone on a pilgrimage to spend Midsummer’s Eve on the grave of Saint Helena in Tisvilde, hoping to be cured by the saint. The painting is highly idealised. Even though the characters are supposedly decrepit, the artist depicted then with exalted dignity.
The painting was created at the behest of Høyen the art historian. It can be viewed as part of the 1840s discussion about Danish identity. Høyen believed that many old Danish traditions and customs had been preserved in the rural populace, and that artists should venture out among peasants and fishermen for their subject matter. Sonne was the first to accept the challenge. A few years later Dalsgaard, Exner, and Vermehren followed suit. This painting is the first-ever depiction of the bright Danish summer nights.