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Edvard Munch, Norwegian, 1863 - 1944

Made in Paris, France, Europe


Oil on canvas

Trapezoidal format: 39 1/2 inches × 18 feet 1 1/2 inches (100.3 × 552.5 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 259, European Art 1850-1900, second floor (Pollack Gallery)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Barbara B. and Theodore R. Aronson, 2003

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Edvard Munch painted Mermaid during an extended stay in Paris in 1896-97, upon receiving a commission for a large-scale decorative work from Axel Heiberg, a Norwegian industrialist. This striking image of a mermaid in the process of transforming into a woman reflects the artist's interest in Symbolism (an artistic and literary movement aimed at eliciting emotional responses from the viewer or reader) and in the themes of metamorphosis, desire, and anxiety. Munch devised the picture's unique trapezoidal format in response to Heiberg's intention to hang the mural just below the sloping rafters of a stair hall in his home in Lysaker, Norway.


Commissioned from the artist by Axel Heiberg (1848-1932), Lysaker, Norway, for Heiberg's house outside Christiana (present-day Oslo), 1896-d. 1932; by inheritance to his wife Ragnhild Meyer Heiberg (1849-1937), 1932-d.1937; by inheritance to their daughter Emma Heiberg Stang (1874-1938), 1937-d.1938 [1]; by inheritance to her son Thomas Stang and his wife Wenche Foss (Stang), Oslo, 1938; Foss (Stang) sale, Christie's, London, July 3, 1979, no. 62; purchased by Lumley Cazalet as agent for American private collector [2]; Galerie Beyeler, Basel; sold to a private collector, late 1990's [3]; sale, Christie's, London, February 3, 2003, no. 84; purchased by Richard L. Feigen (dealer) as agent for Barbara B. and Theodore R. Aronson, Gladwyne, PA; gift to PMA, 2003. 1. The painting was removed from the Lysaker house in 1938, following the deaths of Ragnhild Meyer Heiberg and Emma Heiberg Stang. 2. Christie's sale catalogue, February 3, 2003. 3. Information from Christie's, letter dated January 28, 2003.

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