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Acrobat Family before the Circus Manager
  • Artist Nils Forsberg (Swedish, 1842 - 1934)
  • TitleAcrobat Family before the Circus Manager
  • Dating 1878
  • Technique/MaterialOil on canvas
  • Dimensions145 x 214,5 cm
  • AcquisitionGift of August Röhss, 1883
  • CategoryOil painting
  • Inventory NumberGKM 0178
  • Display StatusOn display in The Charles XII Hall (Room 15)
Signatures etc.
Nils Forsberg’s large work is a social commentary, but shows a history painting’s interest in dramatic staging. An acrobat in tights is showing off his son’s skills to an indifferent ringmaster. The boy, half naked, is holding a bridge. To the left, two boys are waiting, watching the action. In the background there are glimpses of women and girls at work. Seated next to the ringmaster, who, preoccupied, casts a critical eye over the boy, an assistant leans forward, proffering a contract. Behind the ringmaster hang a few musical instruments. A bright light falls on the scene from a skylight.
The picture, which was painted in Paris, was submitted to the Salon in 1878, but was rejected despite the fact that some jurors voted in its favour. At the time it was painted, a law was passed in France that banned the use of children under sixteen for hard labour. The painting can be read as taking up a stand against child exploitation. But according to the artist, it was rejected on the grounds that he had broken the self-same law by using underage models.

Kristoffer Arvidsson from The Collection Gothenburg Museum of Art, Gothenburg 2014