Portrait of Linda Uuehendrik-Hakkaja

Portrait of Linda Uuehendrik-Hakkaja

1917–1918Oil on canvas139 × 112 cmPrivate collection

Linda Kapsta was born on Taabri Farm in Tammistu Village in Tartu County in 1895. Similarly to very many of Konrad Mägi’s friends and portrait subjects, she was from southern Estonia, which in recent decades (though also in Mägi’s time) started to be seen as a distinct cultural space. One special characteristic is the language varieties spoken here, and Mägi himself was said to have spoken in the Tartu dialect all his life.

In 1914, at the age of 19, she married the owner of a large pharmacy, Märt Hakkaja, 14 years her senior, and she gave birth to twins two years later. Linda was said to have defined herself as a housewife but at some point, she demanded that her husband hire servants and she started taking part in society life. Her grandson Peeter Nõges recalls Linda claiming that throughout her life her ideal was not to work and later events in her life indicate she desired a typical upper middle-class life, replete with servants and gardeners, various cultural pastimes, balls and cafes and summers spent in places like Elva. Linda was also an active member of the Estonian Women’s Society, which pursued folk handicrafts, taught cooking courses, held lotteries and staged plays, at least one of which featured Linda in a role.

The jewellery artist Tanel Veenre says the snake bracelet she is wearing is one of the most widespread motifs in the history of jewellery, stretching back to western Asia and spreading to Egypt and Greece. The great resurgence of such jewellery in the second half of the 19th century was because of Queen Victoria, who became one of the world’s first global fashion icons. The engagement ring Prince Albert gave to Victoria had a snake design on it and Victoria continued to be partial to jewellery with this motif. The popularity of serpent jewellery was boosted by archaeological digs (Pompeii, Troy etc.) which brought ancient mythological themes into the focus. The bracelet seen on the picture is probably an echo of precisely this Historicist wave.