Jonetta Bjerkan 1868-1945

Jonetta came from a family with roots in Nord-Trøndelag, but by 1875 the family had moved to Trondheim. Her father was a carpenter. As they owned the house where they lived on Åsveien it is possible that he built it himself. Jonetta lived here with her parents and several siblings.
There are indications that her father died fairly early, and for this reason the children soon needed to find work. Jonetta was a maid with the Aune family, the photographer, with premises in Kongensgt. 12. This is where the special story about Jonetta begins! At that time the artist Christian Eggen was planning his now famous large-format painting of Ravnkloa. He also wanted to include many authentic persons in this bustling market in his painting. He had envisioned using one of the photographer's daughters as the main character, as she was said to be quite a beauty. However, in the spirit of the new generation, she tossed her head and rejected the invitation. Miffed, the painter then asked the maid, who did not reject the offer. And this is how it came to pass that Jonetta was the central character in this most famous of all paintings from Trondheim!
Completed in 1893, Eggen must have worked on it for a long time. It is reasonable to assume that he painted Jonetta, the main character, first, and then all the other characters in turn. The following fact is true: Jonetta was married to Severin Fredriksen, a butcher, in Ila church in January 1890, and their first child was born in March of that same year! Then they managed to have another child before emigrating to the USA. Thus, when Eggen unveiled his Ravnkloa painting, Jonetta Fredriksen was settled on the prairie in North Dakota, with husband and eventually several children.
Something must have happened to the family because in 1900 they were back in Trondheim. In the census they were then called Jønnum! Among Norwegian-Americans it was not uncommon to change names ending in "sen" to another name.
Lasting peace and quiet was not to be something this family would have. Living in Biskop Grimkjells gate in Lademoen was probably hard enough, what with many children and perhaps problems finding work and a steady income. At any rate, Severin emigrated again in 1908, and this time Jonetta did not go with him. Eventually the flock of children was divided, some in the USA and some in Trondheim. Jonetta (again named Fredriksen, and still listed as "married" in the 1910 census) is called a "brewery worker" and lived the rest of her life in the Lademoen district. It is not easy to say what her relationship was to the painting in which she is the main figure. But she must have told her family about it. Her daughter Hulda once went to Trondhjems kunstforening [The art museum in Trondheim], asking to see "Ravnkloa" and her mother. In this way she gave the custodian, Alf Olsen, the main authority on the painting, some valuable information about its origins.
Jonetta in Ravnkloa: Modest grace, erect attitude, with a slight, almost unnoticeable trace of sadness in her eyes. Life is short. Art is long. (Ingrid Pedersen in Nidaros, December 1948).
Recommended reading: Trondheim, havn i tusen år [Trondheim, port for a thousand years]. Volume 1, page 135-139.

Author: Einar Rædergård