Miscellaneous Works of Art
Depicting Old Norse Mythology

from the 18th  19th and 20th Centuries

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 THE 18th  CENTURY

"Mars or Tyr" from an 18th Century Manuscript

The illumininated manuscript leaf above demonstrates that ideas concerning the Norse gods were still very much intertwined with the names of the days of the week in the popular mind, as the Icelandic Eddas first entered into the public consciousness in the mid-1700s, introducing the mythology of these gods for the first time.
The following artwork forms a hybrid of what would afterward become two distinct trends of inspirations in Norse mythological art. Here the figure of Frigga, wielding sword (left), is inspired by Richard Verstegan's depiction of the Saxon gods that lend their names to the days of the week, in his Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities first published in 1605. The other figure on horseback (left), represents Odin on his eight-legged steed Sleipnir, directly inspired by the account given in Snorri's Edda.

1756 Paul Henri Mallet
Monumens de la Mythologie et de la Poesie des Celtes
et Particulierement des  Anciens Scandinaves 
 

 

p. 30 Explanation of the Attached Vignette

"The elevated figure, holding a sword & a bow represents Odin's wife Frigga [As depicted by Olaus Magnus, 1555]. Below her is an ancient altar, as can still be seen in many places in the North. The stone next to it is a runic monument whose purpose was given by Bartholin, and that is still seen in Sweden. Everything is from one of these stone enclosures where kings were elected, or held council. Odin is represented with the attributes given to him in the Edda, and as he appears on an ancient monument [i.e. the Tjängvide image stone (see above)] copied by Bartholin. Finally there are drawn two sticks or runic calendars, the oldest that are known."
 
     
Appropriately, the first modern image of an actual scene from
 Old Norse mythology depicts the emergence  of the first living beings
 
as described in Snorri's Edda.

 Nicolai Abildgaard 
(1743-1809)


1777 Ymir suckling the Cow Audhumbla as she licks Bur from the ice



      1778 Costume Designs for a Royal production of  
Johannes Ewald's Drama  'Balders Død'

          
1787 Louis-Jean Desprez
Scenery for the Opera "Frigga"


Frigga's temple, flanked by runic stones, in the holy grove of Uppsala

 A gift of the artist to Catherine II, found in the collection of State Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

The French architect and stage‐designer Louis Jean Desprez arrived in Stockholm in 1784 employed by the Swedish king Gustav III. As stage‐designer he had an instant success with two plays and operas written by the king himself and his court composers. In 1787 Desprez was commanded to design the scenery for the two diametrically different productions: Frigga written as a historical comedy— later transformed into an opera — and the opera Electra. The first set for Frigga showed a french‐classical temple in Nordic surroundings. It is plausible that Desprez for this invention used a French engraving by Ransonette showing J.B. Collet's proposal for a new operahouse. When Frigga was staged as an opera in Stockholm Desprez designed a temple erected inside a grotto. This design might be inspired by a doric temple built within a constructed grotto in a park at Neuilly near Paris. This so-called “Folie” had been built by François‐Joseph Bélanger for a freemason by the name of C.B. de Sainte‐James in order to be used for initiation ceremonies within the lodge. When Desprez re‐staged Frigga at the court theatre at Drottningholm he designed a set where the temple seèms to have been carved out directly from the rock. The same conception can be found in an engraving by Jean‐Laurent Legeay among his “Invenzioni” from 1767.  Source

  
Johann Heinrich Füssli
[Henry Fuseli]

(1741-1825)
Henry Fuseli, a Swiss painter, draughtsman and writer who spent much of his life in Britain. A noted 18th century painter, and leading member of the  English Romantic art movement,  Fuseli (Fussli) created pictures that explored the darker side of the human psyche. Focusing on historical and allegorical works, Fuseli drew much of his inspiration from literary sources, in particular Shakespeare, Milton and Dante. Noted for his masterpiece The Nightmare (1781),  Fuseli favored fantastic and supernatural themes which dominated British tastes from around 1770 to 1830.
 
      
1781 Othar rescuing Syritha from the giants
A scene based on Saxo Grammaticus' Danish History for a stage production

  


1790 Thor battering the Midgard Serpent
Early in 1779 Fuseli returned to Britain where he found a commission awaiting him from Alderman Boydell, who was then setting up his Shakespeare Gallery. Fuseli painted a number of pieces for Boydell. In 1788 Fuseli married one of his models, Sophia Rawlins, and soon after became an associate of the Royal Academy. In 1790,  he presented Thor Battering the Midgard Serpent as his diploma work. Thor is depicted nude, in Neoclassic style. He faces the furious serpent. Hymir turns away cowering with fear. The omnipresent nature of Odin is indicated by his appearance among the clouds watching the fierce battle. His omnipotence is contrasted with the ominous nature of the Midgard serpent emerging from the waves. The sea is churned with the unudation of its black coils and the waves have merged with the clouds.

1770 Sketch of Odin in the Underworld
  


1776 Odin Receives the Prophecy of Balder's Death


    
 THE 19th CENTURY

1810 Artist Unknown
Di Dei Della Mitologia Norrena

  
 
This image appears to be based in part on the illustration of Thor in Richard Verstegan's Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities, yet it shows knowledge of Snorri's Edda, including Thor's goat-drawn wagon (second step from bottom) and the tale of Loki and his wife Sigyn (foreground).  It is remarkably similar to the Frontispiece for Nils Henrik Sjöborg's  Samlingar för Nordens Fornälskare (1822).

Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg 
(1783-1853)



1810 Loki and Sigyn


1817 The Death of Baldur
 
Johan Gustaf Sandberg


Valkyries Riding to Battle, c. 1820
    
Johann Ludwig Lund

(1777-1867)

1831 A Sacrifice to Thor

1844 The Norns
      
 Carl Wahlbom
(1810-1858)


1833 Loki and Sigyn   


  
 Bragi
Knut Baade
(1808-1879)


1828 Heimdall Summons the Gods to Battle
Knut Ljøgodt, Northern Gods in Marble (2012):

One of the first Norwegian artists who devoted himself whole-heartedly to subjects from Norse mythology was Knud Baade (1808-1879). His first attempt in the genre was 'Heimdall Summons the Gods to Battle' (1828; ill. 9. Willoch; Ljøgodt,‘Knud Baade als Historienmaler’; Ljøgodt, Måneskinnsmaleren). This was painted when Baade was studying with Eckersberg at the Academy in Copenhagen; the young Norwegian was obviously well acquainted with the contemporary fascination with Norse mythology. Later in life, Baade would recount: 

‘The mysteriousness of Norse mythology had great appeal to me in my youth. Heimdall Calling the Gods to Battle and Hermoder in Helheim were childish attempts during my stay in Copenhagen.’ (Baade’s autobiographical note). 

 Baade’s painting represents Heimdall, guardian of the gods, blowing his horn to call the gods to battle at Ragnarok – the apocalypse of Norse mythology. This scene is described in the Norse poem ‘Voluspa’ in the Elder Edda. Baade, however, seems to have found his motif in a poem by Oehlenschläger, ‘The Prophecy of Vola’[Volas Spaadom], from The Gods of the North. Here the end of the world is foretold:

Upon the bridge, Heimdaller perch’d blows
fearfully his horn to rise all nature to th’eternal strife;
While Jormundgardur lifts his head and hisses.
(Oehlenschläger, Gods of the North) 
  
        In the background, Odin and Thor arrive, as in the epic, while in the lower left corner two troll heads peek out at the scene, probably the giants fretting at the sight of the gods gathering for war. The picture was shown at the Copenhagen Academy Exhibition of 1828 and was later acquired by King Carl Johan, whose interest in Norse mythology has already been mentioned.

1843 The Völva's Prophecy
   

 
1839
Illustration from
Brage og Idun et Nordisk Fjærdingårsskrift    
Volume 1, Issue 1
by Frederik Barfod


Tyr (left with sword), Odin (center), and Thor (right)
  
B.E. Fogelberg
(1786-1854)
 

1830 Odin

1844 Thor

1844 Balder


1818 Freyr and Gullinbursti


1840 Abridged History of England

Nerthus



Anglo-Saxon Idols

 
 

Nils Blommér
(1816-1853)
1846 Heimdall Returns Brisingamen to Freyja

1850 Idun and Bragi
   

1850 Näcken och Ägirs döttrar (The Nixie and Ægir's Daughters)
        
 
1852 Freyja Seeking Her Husband


  
Otto Henrik Wallgren
(1795–1857)
Odin Thor A Giant
The image of Thor appears to be based on the illustration of the Saxon idol Thor in
Richard Verstegan's Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities.
The stars surround the idol's head are now incorporated into his crown.

1853
Harald Conradsen
Bragi and Idun


       
 Herman Wilhelm Bissen 
(1798-1868)

Valkyrie

1858 Idun

Model for Nanna

 

1862-63 
Studentmötet i Lund och Kopenhamn

Student Meeting in Lund and Copenhagen
  
Four gonfalones presented to the participants of the  Studentmötet i Lund och Kopenhamn (1863). Images of the gods, loosely based on drawings by Constantin Hansen and Peter Christian Skovgaard, were embroidered on each flag. The students from Copenhagen received Heimdal, the students from Christiana Thor, Uppsala Odin, and Lund Freyr. A detailed account of this donation was published in the Danish magazine Illustreret Tidende Årgang 3, Nr. 145, 06/07-1862.
 

Thor, Christiana
 

Heimdal, Copenhagen
 

Odin, Uppsala

Freyr, Lund
 
1863 Carl Gustav Qvarnström


Loki aims an arrow for Hödur

Other works:
Uller (1841), Idun (1843), Idun bortröfvad af jätten Tjasse i örnhamn (1856)
Valkyrjor föra en fallen kämpe till Valhall

1866 Johan P. Molin
Aegir and his Daughters
Fountain, Stockholm, Sweden

   

 
Peter Nicolai Arbo
(1831-1892)
  

1872 The Asgard Ride


1865 Valkyrie


1865 Valkyrie Sketch


1874 Day
      

1874 Night and Hrimfaxi
    
 
1860 Hakon the Good


Odin the Northern God of War
by Valentine Cameron Prinsep
Published in Harper's Weekly, July 1871

 

1876 F. Sandys
in Historical & Legendary Ballads 
by Walter Thornbury

LOKI




1876 Brunnhilde and Siegfried's Body
A Scene from Richard Wagner's Götterdammerung
(Face of Odin below)


 
1870s Robert Krausse
Wotan

         

"[Richard Wagner's] house is built in the Renaissance style, square, and with little ornament save a large sgraffito painting by Robert Krausse over the doorway, surmounted in its turn by the name of the villa, Wahnfried. ...The painting typifies his art. In the centre is the figure of Wotan, who personifies German Mythology; on one side is Greek Tragedy, and on the other, Music. To this group looks up Siegfried as typical of the "art of the future," which has resulted from a mingling of the old tragic art, of music, and of the national mythology." 

—Harper's Magazine, Vol. 66, 1883.




1887 Hans Dahl
Ran's Daughters






1887 Anne Marie Carl-Neilsen
Thor med Midgaardsormen

1891 Niels Hansen Jacobsen
Thor lifting Utgard-Loki's Cat

    
1897 Rolf Adlersparre (1859-1943)
Guardians of Djurgård's Bridge
 
Thor
 

Frigg
 

Heimdal
 
 
Freyja




Thor

Freyja



1890s Aubrey Beardsley
Richard Wagner's Die Götterdämmerung 
 

  
1892  Karl Franz Eduard von Gebhardt
Loki and Sigyn


 
Gerhard Munthe (1849-1929)
Illustrations for Heimskringla, 1897
 

1897-99 Anders Bundgaard
The Gefion Fountain
Copenhagen, Denmark





THE
20th CENTURY
1901 Carl Johan Bonnesen
Thor in combat with the Jötunns'

Ny Carlsberg's New Brew House, Copenhagen, Denmark


     
1901 Anders Zorn
Freyja




1901 Rudolf Maison
Odin



     
 1903 Henrik Wissler
Tors Fiske, Stockholm

   

       
1905 B.E. Ward
Idunn


        
1907 Nils Asplund
Heimdall as Culture Bringer

     
The Bronze Age

     


1908 Stephan Sinding
Valkyrie, Copenhagen




1909 Einar Jónsson
Audhumbla and Ymir
Selfoss, Iceland






1912 Stockholm Olympiad

The Story of Europe, 1912
by Edward Snodgrass
 
Odinn

Thor 


1913 Kai Neilsen
Ymers brønd



1914 Anton Marussig
German Picture Postcard 
Odin at SonnenWende
(Solstice)

        
     
1916 German Picture Postcard
Wotan Der Wanderer




1917 Eugene Grasset
Die Walküre
   
 
 
 
1923 Ida Matton
Loki's Punishment
 
1926 Carl Johan Bonnesen
Thor at War with the Jötuns
Grounds of Glud & Marstrand, Odense, Denmark



1930
Boris Artzybasheff

Padraic Column's Orpheus
Later Published as The Myths of the World


The Punishment of Loki
  
1948
Stig Blomberg

Ask and Embla
Sölvesborg, Sweden

     



 1953 James D. Powell
Ephemera Grab Bag on Mythology
"The Apples of Iduna"




Dates Unknown
Statuary in Thale, Harz, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

Wotan's Magic Horse

The Dragon Nidhögg

Wotan
 

1999 Steve Field
Sleipnir, Wedensbury




Haukur Haldórsson
Thor and his Goats
Straumur, Iceland

Additional Works from
Greek Gods in Northern Costumes:
Visual Representations of Norse Mythology in 19th century Scandinavia

by Hans Kuhn, 11th International Saga Conference

Ernst Josephson (S, 1851-1906): Odens intåg i Sverige, 1890s.

Egron Lundgren (S, 1815-1875): Balderstemplet, 1839.


Louis Moe (N/DK, 1859-1945), Ragnar i Ormegaarden, 1890s.
Anders Zorn, (S, 1860-1920): Brynhild och Gudrun, 1893.
 

 
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