December 20, 2016
The Anatomy of Viking Art
- Broa Style
- Oseberg Style
- Borre Style
- Jelling Style
- Mammen Style
- Ringerike Style
- Urnes Style
The Anatomy of the Broa Style
c. 750 – 825
1. Lappets with double or triple tendril frond terminals.
2. Tightly curled tendril terminals.
3. Head in profile.
4. Round eye.
5. Round tightly curled snout.
6. Small and slightly curved mouth.
8. Limbs rendered into extremely elongated tendrils.
9. Open hips dissolving into looping tendril interlace.
Curvy outlines with occasional kinks.
Even and almost geometric curves.
A. Pear-shaped loops.
- Semi-tight interlace with little visible background.
- Double contour occurs.
- Single-stranded ribbons.
- Double-stranded ribbons occur.
- Clear composition almost to the point of geometry.Clear composition almost to the point of geometry.
- Repetition of basic compositional lines.
- A sense for counterpoint composition.
- Apparent symmetry in the composition – However, a difference in detail (A, C).
- Compositions often divided or separated by framework (B, C).
- Juxtaposition of different types of motifs (C).
- Ribbon animals with elongated bodies and extremely stylized features (A, B, D).
- Squat animals with more naturalistic bodies (B, C).
- Gripping beasts with solid bodies, ribbon-like body and inflated hips, and slender limbs gripping the frame or neighbouring animals or limbs (C).
- Geometric framework (B, C).
Dawn of the Viking Age
Life in Scandinavia was in large lived in and around the longhouse of the farmstead, either clustered in small villages or as single farms in the open country.
Power structures varied but usually, a chieftain was the main centre of power in the local community constituted by a number of farmsteads which paid allegiance to the chieftain.
A spiritual practice was inherent in all aspects of life and wasn’t centred around any single religious institution like the Church of the Christian faith. The subject of tribute was all the various deities of the Norse pantheon like Odin, Freya and Thor, each with their individual attributes, whom it was paramount to please with a fitting sacrifice to gain good fortune depending on the matter at hand.
The establishment of trading towns like Hedeby and Birka began typically as temporary and seasonal marketplaces in conjunction with yearly communal thing assemblies with a collection of parcels along the main street with booths of tents and makeshift workshops at either side. They then developed into more established market towns where trade could be controlled and taxes collected by the local rule.
The southern border of Scandinavia was constituted by Danevirke, a fortification running across the narrowest part of the Jutland peninsula with Hedeby at the east end, and thereby controlling all land access to Scandinavia from the south and connecting the trading routes by land with those of the sea.
The gradual establishment of controlled trading towns and military structures of this magnitude indicates that some kind of subjugating measure of power like a king organising and controlling subordinate chieftains and their resources must have been in place already by now.
On the British Isles, the various territories of Christian faith were divided in a number of Kingdoms.
Continental Western Europe was dominated by the expansive Frankish Empire supported by the Catholic Church. The empire reached its peak around the year 800, as the Pope crowned Charlemagne of the Carolingian dynasty Holy Roman Emperor in Rome.
Continental Eastern Europe was inhabited by a large group of Slavic clans and tribes, which in their way of life and spiritual beliefs were much more similar to the Norse people of Scandinavia.
Connections and Exchange
The Norse had already been travelling and exchanging goods throughout Europe for centuries by sea and land. But the introduction of the sail made their already magnificent ships a lot faster and thereby longer reaching. This new advantage was the main reason why the Vikings now began to be a force to be reckoned with and ultimately made a lasting and profound impression on the history of Europe.
Though the large part of the travels and exchange of the Norse was probably somewhat peaceful and based on trading goods and making connections, what the Scandinavians are best known for is their violent raids. In the written sources the most famous account of the Norse is of cause the Viking attack on the Monastery of Lindisfarne situated on the east coast of England. This event marks what is traditionally regarded by scholars as the beginning of the Viking age in Scandinavia.
Ribbon Animals & Gripping Beasts
The artistic traditions at this time in Scandinavia were already well established and several iterations of the Norse trademark, The ribbon animal, had been in use for a few centuries already.
The ribbon animals of the Broa style covers a spectrum of motifs and styles of execution. Common traits are heads in profile with round eyes, open hips with intertwining ribbon-like limbs.
At one end of the spectrum, the animals are extremely abstracted with elongated bodies, simplified facial features, and completely uniform limbs whether they picture claws, wings or tendrils intertwined in almost geometric patterns.
At the other end, the animals are almost naturalistic with organic and squat bodies, while maintaining many of the characteristic features of the style. They are often pictured singularly with the only interlace of ribbons being the intertwine of their own limbs.
The gripping beast, on the other hand, falls almost entirely out of the template of the ribbon animals. It is always pictured with its head facing forward, and its body typically curled up in a single pretzel-knot-like interlace with solid hips. Its feet always grasping either to itself or the surrounding frame of ornament.
The individual motifs themselves, whether they be ribbon animals or gripping beast, are almost always surrounded by or interlacing with a geometric framework like ovals or squares holding the compositions together.
The British Isles were an artistic centre in this time, but also Anglo-Carolingian art from the Frankish regions made its influence on the Norse. Especially the semi-organic animals and birds must have been derived from European art in some way, as they don’t seem to have any predecessors in Scandinavian tradition, though developed drastically to fit the Scandinavian tradition and almost untraceable back to their European inspirational sources.
The motif of the gripping beast emerging in the Broa style may also in some way have been inspired by these external sources, and at the same time, it’s a distinct Norse motif developed within the school of Scandinavian tradition with no direct ancestors outside of Scandinavia.
The dating of the early Viking Age art styles is difficult and rests partly on the typology of objects and partly on the related, dateable Anglo-Carolingian ornament. Which means that any distinctions should be taken with caution.
The Broa Mounts
The style is more popularly named after the horse harness-mounts found in Broa, Sweden, but is formally known as Style III/E or just Style E.
The Broa mounts display a thorough collection of almost all imaginable compositions and motifs of the style with the occasional gripping beast added to the mix, and even some motifs not found elsewhere like the animal-head pieces and almost human-like terminals on some of the mounts.
The various disc-on-bow brooches typically display the more abstracted and elongated version of the ribbon animals in the style juxtaposed with segments of gripping beast motifs.
The Oseberg Academician’s Work
The Academician’s work from the Oseberg grave display some great examples of wood-carvings in the style, though they might be on the verge of transition into the following Oseberg style.
The Broa style is only found in Scandinavia and is especially common in Eastern Scandinavia.
The Animal head post / The lion head
— the Oseberg grave
Oseberg, Vestfold, Norway.
Universitetets Oldsakssamling, Oslo C55000 172
The Academician’s animal head post
— the Oseberg grave
Oseberg, Vestfold, Norway.
Universitetets Oldsakssamling, Oslo C55000 100
The Academician’s sledge pole from Gustafson’s sledge
— the Oseberg grave
Oseberg, Vestfold, Norway.
Universitetets Oldsakssamling, Oslo C55000 179
Lamøya, Kaupang, Tjølling, Vestfold, Norge.
Universitetets Oldsakssamling, Oslo C27220n
The Broa mounts
Broa, Gotland, Sweden.
Historiska Museet, Stockholm SHM 10796:1, SHM 11106:1
Gumbalda, Gotland, Sweden.
Historiska Museet, Stockholm SHM 1078, SHM 1361
Disc-on-bow brooch (I)
Broa, Halla, Gotland, Sweden.
Historiska Museet, Stockholm SHM 19734
Disc-on-bow brooch (II)
Melhus, Overhalla, Nordtrøndelag, Norway.
Disc-on-bow brooch (III)
Othemars, Othem, Gotland, Sweden.
Historiska Museet, Stockholm SHM 4555
Disc-on-bow brooch (IV)
Storhaugen, Stavanger, Rogaland, Norway.
Othem, Gotland, Sweden.
Historiska Museet, Stockholm SHM 11887
Oval brooch (I)
Gesala, Romafortuna, Västmanland, Sweden.
Historiska Museet, Stockholm SHM 31030
Oval brooch (II)
Södra Alby, Hulterstad, Oland, Sweden.
Historiska Museet, Stockholm SHM 7584
Round ‘box-shaped’ brooch (I)
Valla, Gotland, Sweden.
Historiska Museet, Stockholm
Round ‘box-shaped’ brooch (II)
Klause, Klinte sn., Gotland, Sweden.
Historiska Museet, Stockholm GF C 8099
Round ‘box-shaped’ brooch (III)
Historiska Museet, Stockholm GF C 3506
Universitetets Oldsakssamling, Oslo C20317a
Stora Ihre, Hellvi, Gotland, Sweden.
Historiska Museet, Stockholm SHM 20550
Graham-Campbell, James, 2013. Viking Art.
Fuglesang, Signe Horn, 1982. ‘Early Viking Art.’ Acta ad Archaeologiam et Artium Historiam Pertinentia (Series altera in 8°) 125–173.