Niels Hansen Jacobsen (1861-1941), Motif from The Story of a Mother by Hans Christian Andersen, 1892
In a dynamic pose, Death strides over the mother crouching on the ground. Her dead child is half hidden by the fluttering cloak.
Hans Christian Andersen’s (1805-1875) tale The Story of a Mother provided the literary source of Hansen Jacobsen’s sculpture:
"And she lowered her head into her lap. And Death took her child into the Unknown Lands."
The motif of Death as the Grim Reaper
Visually, Hansen Jacobsen’s main sources of inspiration was other paintings of the time, where the motif of Death as the Grim Reaper appears in several variations, e.g. in works by the French painter Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) and the Danish painter L.A. Ring (1854-1933).
A break with naturalism
With its expressive idiom and obvious symbolism, this work marks a break with the naturalism that served as Hansen Jacobsen’s first point of departure, pointing ahead to the exuberance that came to characterise his sculptures in the years that followed.
In addition to this original plaster model, two bronze versions of the sculpture exists. One is located on the St. Petri cemetery in Copenhagen, while the other is, no less appropriately, placed by the museum that houses his life’s work: Vejen Kunstmuseum.