Jenny Lind Selling at Sothebys
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Written by Seacoast Maritime Heritage

Figurehead Jenny Lind with lover Karl Eric Svarskog / J. Dennis Robinson photo (c) SeacoastNH.comMARITIME HERITAGE 

"I saw through flickering candlelight what presumably was the scarecrow. It was hidden under a thin blanket. Hesitantly, I walked toward the figure to uncover the blanket. When the figure’s intense gaze met mine the world stood still. Who are you? Who made you? Where did you come from?" – Karl Eric Svarskog

 

 

 

 

Man Falls in Love with Statue, But
Auction Ends 13-Year Affair with Piscataqua Figurehead

READ ALL ABOUT the Jenny Lind figurehead Saga 

Jenny Lind is finally going on the auction block at Southebys in January 2008. Whatever price she brings, it can scarcely cover the effort that her current owner, an antiques dealer from Sweden, has put into this wooden figurehead. For 13 years he has been studying, exhibiting and promoting this wooden figure with all the energy that showman PT Barnam poured into his discovery of the original Jenny Lind, a singer known internationally as "The Swedigh Nightingale."

What a long strange trip it’s been since Karl Eric Svarskog discovered the life-sized figurehead of a woman in a barn in Sweden in 1994. He believes fervently that the carving depicts 19th century singer Jenny Lind and was once mounted on the clipper ship Nightingale, launched here at Portsmouth Harbor in 1861.

SeacoastNH.com has been covering this story for nearly a decade when Karl first contacted us during his research. The story is well told on his web site and in a promotional video available from Sothebys, where the statue now awaits sale with other American treasures. Karl believes this may be among the last American clipper ship figures to come up for auction. When the gavel comes down, if the price is right, he will be free at last from his magnificent obsession.

Over the years, we’ve communicated with Karl often, even helped spread the story. One of our readers wrote to say he owns a painting of the ship Nightingale that included a picture of the figurehead. Karl published a book here with Peter Randall, in what has been a tireless effort to track down the story of this ‘scarecrow" found in a barn. Here in a nutshell, is the story so far.-- JDR

Figurehead featured in Stockholm with Symphony Orchestra ? Karl Svarskog photo

THE LIFE OF A FIGUREHEAD

Gifted soprano Jenny Lind born in Sweden in 1820

PT Barnum sponsors hugely successful Jenny Lind America tour in 1850

Clipper Nightingale launched into the Piscataqua in June 1851
Jenny Lind figurehead added in Boston possibly by carver John Mason

Nightingale employed as a slave ship in 1860

Nightingale captured in 1861 and became US cruiser in the Civil War

Damaged ship refitted in Norway in 1885 and figurehead removed

Real life Jenny Lind dies in 1887

Nightingale abandoned and sunk in the Atlantic in 1893

Figurehead likely transported by train to Sweden,
used as scarecrow at farm

Karl Eric Svarskog discovers figure in 1994

Statue unveiled by king Karl Gustaf at Stockholm Museum in 1996

Jenny featured onstage with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in Stockholm

Figurehead appears in National Geographic in 1998

SeacoastNH.com first tells the story in 2001

Jenny travels to America, displayed at Portsmouth Athenaeum and onstage during Jenny Lind tribute concert at Portsmouth Music Hall

Book about Jenny & the Nightingale published in 2002

Jenny begins three-year display at Mystic Seaport in CT in 2002

Duplicate made of statue using digital technology while at Mystic

Figurehead on display at South Street Seaport Museum in NYC in 2007

Jenny up for auction at Sotheby’s in 2008

OUTSIDE LINKS:

 --  Karl Eric Svarskog web site    
 -- Sotheby’s web site  
 -- But the book at Peter E. Randall web site