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Fixeringsbilder inom en vikingatida spänneserie
Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte.
2009 (Swedish)In: Aarbøger for nordisk oldkyndighed og historie, ISSN 0084-585X, Vol. 2006, 91-132 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this article is to map the treatment process of imagery within a specific workshop tradition. In an oral culture, it would have been wasteful not to take advantage of the iconographic potential of high-quality brooches. Therefore, it must be allowed to propose that Viking Age ornament has a deeper meaning. The tendency to let studies of Animal Art deal with shape rather than content has weakened considerably since the days of Sophus Müller. Nowadays there is a greater openness toward iconographic interpretations of Animal Art. The investigation is iconographic in the sense that it aims to determine how motifs are used and what they might represent. However, the question about the meaning of abstract shapes is not raised. According to an eternally current hypothesis within research history, the Animal Art shows analogies with skaldic poetry. Furthermore, a survey of the production conditions shows that poetry and Animal Art both were commissioned by the leading class. Hence, the investigation is focused on the stately objects of the upper class, and their specific ornament. A suitable group of artefacts are the so-called “baroque” silver brooches from mid Viking Age. By linking them as puzzle pictures, the silver caster has managed to combine several motifs on a limited image surface. Here, six brooches are examined thoroughly: After having shown that they originate from the same workshop, the brooches are organized typologically. This is done based on the production technique, technology, and ornaments. To make this easier to grasp, the descriptions of the history of the finding, utilization and restoration of the artefacts are reviewed in a catalogue. Once established, this typological order forms the backbone of a puzzle picture typology. In the examination process, a number of interesting analogies between poetry and imagery emerge: The composition conditions for puzzle pictures and poetic metaphors (kenningar) show some parallels. Within both arts, the hallmark of a true proficient is the ability to fit several motifs (= kenningar/puzzle pictures) within a narrow frame (= metre/artefact structure) without breaking it. Just like a poet, a silver caster understood the art of borrowing motifs from other fields of the contemporary art and bringing them together into a new composition. Just like the poet’s audience, the beholders of ornamentry must sharpen their senses to solve the riddles. The intellectual challenge lays in puzzling together figures of increasing complexity. Another hint of a connection between imagery and poetry is given by a couple of ekphraseis, composed by various skalds. The production conditions of poetry and silver brooches were similar: Skalds as well as silver casters depended on a patron. The material value of the silver brooches, as well as the names of some of the finding sites, indicate that the commissions may have come from an Óðinn-worshipping upper class, which also supported poetry. Due to these similarities, an attempt is made to interpret the puzzle-picture motifs on the baroque brooches using skaldic metaphors for Óðinn (óðinsheiti). For the time being, any further interpretation is obstructed by the question of semiotics. One the one hand, semioticians seem to offer a variety of hypotheses that could explain the analogies between poetry and silver casting. On the other hand, a wider consensus regarding the teachings and fundamental theories of semiotics has not yet been established. Therefore, I will be cautious in forming overly liberal analogies between different cultural spheres. It remains to be seen, whether the kenning-analogy works as a master key to Viking Age culture. The goal of the paper is to map the image treatment within a specific workshop tradition. Therefore, the results of this case study should only be seen as one among many possible scenarios within the complex reality of the Viking Age. The iconographic interpretations of this paper are also mere suggestions, intended to stimulate further discussion.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
København: Det kongelige Nordiske Oldskriftselskab, Nationalmuseet, 2009. Vol. 2006, 91-132 p.
Keyword [en]
Norse religion, Typology, Metalwork, Edda, Scaldic Poetry, Animal Art, Metal Casting, Animal Style, Cult, Ekphrasis, Dress adornment, Viking, Archaeology, Methodology, Puzzle pictures
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Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-180058OAI: diva2:547782
Available from: 2012-08-28 Created: 2012-08-28 Last updated: 2012-09-13

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Neiß (Neiss), Michael
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