Portrait of Ida Aunver

Portrait of Ida Aunver

1918Oil on canvas88.5 × 80 cmPrivate collection, Sweden

Ida Adelheid Aunver (née Miljan) married Jakob Albrecht (later Estonianized to Aunver) on 24 June 1915 (Julian calendar). Three years later, in 1918, they had a portrait of themselves painted. Voldemar Kangropool painted a portrait of both Ida and Jakob, while Mägi painted only Ida, who was 25 years old at the time.

Jakob Aunver later worked as pastor, while Ida wrote children’s stories with religious content and published a collection of them. Ida Aunver was a somewhat unexpected subject of a portrait by Konrad Mägi as he preferred figures of modern life – feminists, actors or people whose facial features evoked the cultural Other. The portrait of the clergyman’s wife was done on commission and Mägi worked in a more cursory fashion than he did in the case of some other works. The work has less of an idealized Madonna-like quality than other female portraits and the artist has captured psychological traits, bringing out the subject’s dignified, confident manner.

As with the portrait of Linda Uuehendrik-Hakkaja executed around the same time, perhaps done the same year, Mägi asked the model to place her right hand on her knees and raise her left hand to her chest. This pose allows the model’s fingers to be visible and (especially in the Uuehendrik-Hakkaja portrait) Mägi idealizes them in painting. It is also noteworthy that in male portraits, Mägi always limits himself to depicting the face and upper torso and never includes the model’s hands, while in female portraits the hands are often prominent and in a set position: on the subject’s lap, raised to her chest, hanging down, on hips or the back of a chair. The arrangement of hands on one hand brings in new compositional elements or sometimes allows the personality and dignity of the model to be better expressed, while in other works it conveys obeisance and submissiveness. The portrait of Ida Aunver is notable in that the subject has adopted the pose chosen by the artist, but at the same time she is gazing directly at the viewer, with a confident, dignified mien.