This picture belongs to a group of paintings which Zorn executed in the vicinity of Gopsmore in Darlecarlia between 1906-09.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Zorn became increasingly interested in the history and ancient traditions of his native town, Mora, and its wider cultural territories which at the time, as a result of industrialisation and urbanisation, were beginning to disappear.
In 1896, as a pioneer in this field, Zorn had already begun to revive and encourage the old customs and handicraft traditions of his home province. When he gave the village of Morkarleby a May tree in 1896, he succeeded in reviving a tradition which probably dates back to pagan times. At midnight, the peasants would erect a tall pole decorated with flowers and greenery, and then dance until dawn.
Zorn purchased an ancient farmhouse in 1904 when he moved to the parish of Gopsmor, situated by the river Dalälven north-west of Mora. The simple ritualistic lifestyle of its people, with whom he felt affinity, as well as Gopsmor's geographical isolation, became for Zorn, the cosmopolitan, a place of refuge. In a series of paintings from 1904 onwards he depicted the traditional customs of the people of Gopsmor which culminated in his picture of 1914, Dance in the Gopsmor Cottage (Zornsamlingarna, Mora). This picture, which depicts a local dance during the winter season, could be seen as a companion piece to his major pictorial expression of Swedish National Romanticism, Midsummer Dance of 1897 (The Nationalmuseum, Stockholm).
The serene and wild character of Gopsmor's surrounding landscape also provided Zorn with the opportunity to develop his classical theme of the nude. In a group of paintings executed between 1906-9 he depicted young women as nudes deep in the forest where he often placed them amongst saplings by a tarn or a brook. In his paintings of nudes from the late 1880s and mid 1890s, of which a majority were painted in the archipelago in the spirit of the prevalent open-air vitalism, Zorn dissolved the figure into the landscape by the use of colour and a flickering brushwork. His strong feeling for the solidity of forms, derived from his work as a sculptor, gradually, however, led him to model his figures more firmly. Inspired by the peculiar folklore of this environment and the general currents of National Romanticism, he usually entitled these pictures with names or subjects drawn from Nordic mythology, sagas or local pagan history and myths. In this manner he managed to convey a sense of mysticism and privacy to the surrounding landscape by transforming his nudes into dryads, nymphs or shy woodspirits. In addition to the formal differences between his depictions of nudes, the paintings from Gopsmor thus take on a symbolic, albeit primitive meaning, lacking in his earlier works.
The title of this picture, Ingeborg, became a relatively common name by the turn of the century. It probably has its origin in the Icelandic Saga, Fritiof and Ingeborg, a cycle of poems dating from circa 1300 which tells the life story of the son of a Norwegian farmer, Fritiof the Courageous. This epic enjoyed a revival in the nineteenth century, with the publication of 1825 of the Swedish writer Esias Tegner's version, Fritiof's Saga, which remained immensely popular throughout the century, in Sweden as well as on the continent. For example, in 1868, and again in 1888, the Swedish painter August Malmström provided illustrations for two of several new editions of this book.