Saturday, May 16, 2009

Jenny Lind, the Swedish Nightingale

Jenny Lind
The Swedish Nightingale

Jenny Lind was born Johanna Maria Lind, October 6, 1820 in Stockholm, Sweden. Jenny was (shock!!) the illegitimate daughter of Anne Marie Fellborg, a schoolteacher, and Niclas Jonas Lind, a bookkeeper. Her parents did not marry until Jenny was 14 years of age. Wow. You just don't hear of that type situation that often in the 19th century. Makes us 21st century live-in sinners seem more normal, doesn't it?
When Jenny was nine, her singing was overheard by the maid of Mademoiselle Lundberg, the Principal Dancer of the Royal Swedish Opera. Thus began Jenny's illustrious singing career.
Hans Christian Anderson fell in love with Jenny in 1843, and while they remained close friends, his romantic feelings were not returned. Hans wrote three fairytales inspired by Jenny; The Ugly Duckling, The Angel, and The Nightingale. The Nightingale fit....and from then on, Jenny Lind became known worldwide as "The Swedish Nightingale".
Jenny married Otto Goldschmidt in 1852, and bore him three children. This was her only marriage. She gave her last performance in Dusseldorf in 1870, and died of cancer November 2, 1887.
Jenny Lind was one of the first worldwide celebrities, coming to the United States after an invitation from P.T. Barnum to tour. She may well be the first celebrity to become a 'brand'. Her name graced cribs and cradles...dolls and songs. Women strove in droves to imitate her fashions. So, step aside Cher, Madonna and Britney. You've got enormous shoes to fill.

Here is my version of Jenny Lind, made for the IOLCC (Imitation of Life Construction Company) competition in San Diego last year. The theme was...oh god, what was it? Oh yes...something about having wings. I can't go into the world of fairies and faes, it's just not my thing. I don't do animals. Not well. So me being me, and going against the grain, I had to find something historical to get around the whole 'wing' thing.
Is a Nightingale not a winged thing? That's how I came up with Jenny.

Jenny is made of paperclay over an armiture..and she's quite a heavy gal. I mean, um...sturdy. No girl wants to be referred to as heavy. She is completely handsculpted. I did try to come up with some resemblance to the real Jenny, but the plastic surgeon in me did whittle her somewhat bulbous proboscis down a just a tad. Her hair is also hand modeled, as I didn't want to risk sending her into the hands of others to display and having mohair somehow get pulled out of shape. And it's a good thing I did....because Jenny came back from the show missing a couple of her digits. She's lucky she wasn't a pianist...
She's wearing a ballgown made from contemporary changeable silk taffeta, which is enhanced by antique fabrics and beaded trims. No good, useable, historically significant, displayable, wearable antique garment was destroyed to create Jenny's gown. The gown is covered with netting (with pleats of silk ribbon) from an antique gown that was shredded Her headpiece is all antique 'bits' as well. She holds a miniature reproduction of sheet music (I believe it's the Jenny Lind Polka...can't truly remember, it got lost in the show). Her mitts are also antique lace. I like how she turned out, and apparently a lot of other people did too. Which made me a happy camper.
There was a gentleman at the show who kept staring at her, leaving...coming back and staring at her. He said she looked just like his niece, who worked at the Whaley House Museum in San Diego. Hmmm...............that was very interesting, as I was Head Docent there for a few years. What a coincidence. But you'd think I'd know who he was talking about..I couldn't figure out who worked there (and I know EVERYONE who does and has since 2000) that this doll could possibly resemble.
Finally figured it out, he was right! She's just much younger than Jenny...and much more lovely. I wonder now how much of my memory bank threw this gal into this doll? Weird.
Alas, I still haven't gotten round to rebuilding her poor little fingers.


  1. She's beautiful and the face really does look like her!

  2. Hi Robin, She is absolutely breathtaking!!!!!!Everything about her is FANtastic! I actually learned some things about her today that I did not know. For one, having a baby out of wedlock and getting married to the father when Jenny was fourteen. I thought they stoned them for that back then. LOL!! Julie

  3. Robin - she is just so wonderful !
    hugs, Lone

  4. It goes without saying that she is fabulous.

    One of my dear friends did a sampler depicting Jenny. It s so primitive and cute. I must share it some day.

    Good choice for that entry and I loved the information about her life.

    Christine ~ Zwee!!!!!!

  5. Robin!!!
    OMGoodness, this doll is AMAZING! as usual.....
    XOXO Deb

  6. That is a lovely doll, it actually reminds me of Sarah Jane since I don't know anyone in San Diego. ;-) Having babies out of wedlock actually wasn't as uncommon as you think, read Martha Ballard's diary that she kept from 1785 to 1815 for numerous examples.

  7. There's an old saying regarding the arrival of new babies that goes back at least to Victorian times:

    "The first baby may come at ANY time; all the rest take nine months."

    In doing geneology, I've come across quite a few babes who were born five to seven months after the marriage. And they generally lived long productive lives. Miraculous little survivors, these Victorian preemies.

  8. Nice sculpting and a superb costume!

  9. Hi!i like very much this creature!compliments for your work!