In 1908 Antonija Jesenko married Ante Gaber, one of Sternen’s closest friends from the Škofja Loka period, who even took his side during the dispute with Jakopič after 1910. Sternen gave the portrait to the young couple as a wedding present. Regarding the dating of the work, no guesswork is needed, since the subject is wearing her wedding dress and Ante Gaber later wrote that a servant had to pose for Sternen during the later sittings because Antonija (known as Tončka) was heavily pregnant and could no longer fit into her wedding gown.
Sternen conceived this work not merely as a status portrait but as a true portrait d'apparat. He has seated his subject in a comfortable armchair, with her legs crossed. She is wearing a magnificent wedding dress and white gloves, and her hair is done in a still-current Viennese style. As in his portrait of Roza Klein, painted five years earlier, he has slightly raised the eye point, in this way emphasising the sitter’s dignity. Tončka, a pragmatic part of Škofja Loka society who, among other things, ensured that Ivan Cankar, a “prince of Slovene modernism” was given a fitting reception in Škofja Loka, is portrayed here in a relaxed yet dignified frontal pose, her eyes on the viewer. The objects around her are part of her world. Her husband Ante was a student of art history and had helped Karl Strahl, the owner of the manor house in Stara Loka, arrange his art collection. Together with Walter Schmid, then a curator at the Provincial Museum in Ljubljana, he collected art and objects of folk culture. He had also contributed photographs to an article on folk tradition in the Austro-Hungarian Empire published by the London magazine The Studio. This explains the painted wine jug and plate from Komenda, the pewter jug and the row of candlesticks on the period dresser behind her, while the vase of flowers on the left is there as a compliment to her and adds to the ceremoniousness of the image.
With this reordering of priorities for the needs of portraiture, the series of figures in dark interiors that are a feature of Sternen’s oeuvre find realisation here in a large painting that also met with public success. Sternen inventively maintains a balance between the physiognomic specificity demanded by portrait-painting convention and a manifestative discipline of execution. Despite everything, the tonally harmonious and balanced whole, with colours ranging from the whites of the dress via shades of yellow to ochre and carmine, maintains the focus of the artist’s expression in bravura brushwork and deliberately constructed space. Sternen thus succeeds in translating the portrait into a more current modernist form.