ALTEN, MATHIAS J., 1871-1938
Portrait of Marian Louise Gommesen, 1935
Oil on canvas
26 x 21 in. (66.04 x 53.34 cm)
Signed/dated: M. Alten/1935 upper right
On September 7, 1932, Ms. Gommesen was awarded the title of "Miss Michigan" at the contest
the Michigan State Fair in Detroit. Among the prizes she received was an automobile and a complete
wardrobe supplied by a Detroit department store. Although newspaper accounts reported that she was
about to turn nineteen years old at the time she won the contest (and contest officials believed so)
in fact only sixteen and therefore, underage.
According to Gommesen family history, this portrait was not a commissioned piece, but rather, as the
story goes, Alten approached Ms. Gommesens's parents and offered to paint her portrait gratis given
exposure the work might garner. This is entirely probable considering the young woman's
beauty and notoriety. Additionally, Alten had in the past painted portraits without charge when
recognized that the finished product would likely draw public attention to his work.