Viking Art – Introduction
December 20, 2016
The Anatomy of Viking Art
- Broa Style
- Oseberg Style
- Borre Style
- Jelling Style
- Mammen Style
- Ringerike Style
- Urnes Style
The artworks of the Norse are some of the only first-hand sources we have from the people inhabiting Scandinavia in the Viking Age.
But without a mental model of how the individual pieces fit together from years of studying the works of experienced scholars, it can be very difficult and daunting to decipher the individual artworks and even more to try to recreate it. The surviving original artworks are often presented without much context, if any, and are often also damaged or distorted due to the wear of time and use.
This guide is by no means meant to be an exhaustive resource but instead to act as a stepping stone to help you understand the central concepts of the Viking Age art styles.
I am by no means a historian or an archaeologist. My background is in graphic design and architecture, and the intention with this guide is to create the resource I wish I had when I began to try to understand the art of the Norse and tried to make my first unsuccessful attempts at recreating authentic artwork based on the Viking Age styles.
The guide is based on the work of wise scholars and my own thorough studies of the archaeological artefacts. Due to the lack of good documentation and possible copyright issues, the illustrations of this guide are all new designs build on the principles of the original Viking Age art. It has been a great learning experience to create and has contributed tremendously to my understanding of the art and how it is constructed.
I hope this guide will assist you in your quest for getting familiar with the styles of the Norse and hopefully to get you up to speed faster than I was able to by short-circuiting the learning curve. I have skipped all the scholarly history and the who is who of academia in favour of getting right to the point of the matter at hand; the Viking Age art.
The thematic division of the main characteristics into the subjects of shapes, outlines, flow, pattern, composition and motifs are in large based on the great work of Signe Horn Fuglesang though I have made a few adjustments to fit the purpose of this guide.
The styles of the Viking Age are very much a product of the time in which they were developed. With the addition of the historical timelines and maps, I hope to help you better anchor the styles and their characteristics to the historical events and culture of their time. But also to make this a quick reference guide when creating artwork for reenactment-purposes.
The guide is structured chronologically by order of the seven styles from the earliest to the most recent. But be aware that there is still scholarly debate about the definition and categorisation of some of the styles. What I have presented here is what to my knowledge is the most plausible representation yet of the actual historical development from what we know so far.
I encourage you to do your own studies, and I have made it as easy as possible for you to look up any items referenced or historical events mentioned in this guide.
Please share the knowledge with whomever you know who might find it interesting or useful.
I hope this guide will assist you in your study of Viking Age art and also help you recreate beautiful authentic Norse artwork.
Jonas Lau Markussen