Norwegians distinguished their trunks from those of other nineteenth-century American immigrant groups by decorating them with colorful painted designs, names, and dates. One common technique was rosemaling, the Norwegian tradition of painting functional objects with floral and acanthus leaf motifs.
Rosemaled bedroom set, including a trunk, painted by Thelma and Elma Olsen of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, c. 1949
Photo by Wally Schulz, courtesy of Thelma Olsen, Wisconsin Folk Museum Collection
Rosemaled trunks in Stoughton, Wisconsin, c. 1940
Photo by Fred L. Holmes, WHS (V51)24
||Rosemaled trunk by Pat Virch, 1989
Contemporary artists are inspired by historical objects and seek to sustain ethnic material traditions. An accomplished rosemaler, Pat Virch of Marquette, Michigan replicated a Norwegian immigrant-style trunk on a smaller scale (7 inches high) and then decorated and dated the object as an original trunk would have been.