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Christina Nilsson, 1843-1921, opera-singer, as Ofelia
  • Christina Nilsson, 1843-1921, opera-singer, as Ofelia

    TitleChristina Nilsson, 1843-1921, opera-singer, as Ofelia
  • Technique/ MaterialOil on canvas
  • DimensionsDimensions: (h x b) 153 x 90 cm
  • DatingSign. 1873
  • Artist/Maker Artist: Alexandre Cabanel, French, born 1823, dead 1889
  • Depicted PersonChristina Nilsson, Swedish, born 1843-08-20, dead 1921
  • CategoryPaintings, Paintings
  • Classificationpainting
  • Inventory No.NMGrh 1931
  • AcquisitionDonated 1906 by Christina Nilsson
  • Description
    Artist/Maker
    Images and media

    Christina Nilsson (1843–1921) came from modest circumstances in the province of Småland, in southern Sweden. She moved to Paris, triumphed as an opera-singer and toured all over the world. She was also an avid art collector and bequeathed more than 200 objects to the Nationalmuseum.

    The opera star’s collection was typical of a person of her standing, as was her different homes, which she decorated herself. Her collection was disparate, comprising both modern works of art and objects from various historical eras. Her terse parlours were dominated by religious pictures and objects from the Middle Ages and the Baroque. More intimate salons were decorated in the Rococo style, with 18th century paintings and porcelain figurines. Modern art was shown alongside works from earlier periods.

    The Swedish soprano Christina Nilsson was legendary for her rendering of Ophelia in Ambroise Thomas’ opera Hamlet from 1868. The part was a difficult one. She met with success in Paris and then toured Europe and America. This portrait shows the star in the most famous scene from the opera, where Ophelia drowns herself after her passionate aria. The artist Alexandre Cabanel was famous for his historical, biblical and mythological subjects in an idealized, elegant style. He was also a highly-appreciated portrait artist who was often requested to paint celebrities.