One of my points of interest in Art History is the iconography of Norse Mythology. There are many masterpieces based in the norse texts, mainly from 19th century due to nordic renaissance because of the Romantic ideals of recovering ancient past of each nation all over Europe. One of this artists is the Danish Lorenz Frølich (1820-1908), the author of this image.
Frølich was formed in Arts in Denmark but lived in Paris, Germany and London. So, his sources came from the French plen-air, the British Pre-Raphaelism and, of course the Golden Age of the Nordic and German renaissance, a very strange mix. Though he paint some important canvases, his favourite media was the print, because of it many of his well-known works are prints.
There are two main books of Norse Mythology: the Prose and the Poetic Edda. The source for the engraving I present in this post is one poem of the Poetic Edda. This poem relates how Odin sacrifices himself in the windswept tree. This sacrifice was motivated by Odin to obtain the absolute wisdom. He spent hung nine days and nine nights in this tree and received the supreme knowledge of the runes.
The runes are the magic alphabet in Norse Mythology and we can find samples of them in runestones all over the Nordic countries, England and Germany. It´s not clear from what age they come, probably the most ancient of them are dated in 2nd century BC. Today, runes are being used in magic, using them to cast, in a way to find yourself and to view the future. Respecting these practices I prefer to consider runic inscriptions and runestones from an artistic point of view.
The print of Frølich draws the allmighty god Odin suffering hung in the tree, while the supreme wisdom is being revealed. Odin is drawn as an old and powerful man, with a long and white-haired beard. He is almost nude except by a woollen cloth. If we look at the tree, it´s composed by curved branches, surrounding the body of Odin, very close to the Art Nouveau style, widespread all over Europe in the fin de siècle. Obviously Frølich knew this style, probably from his time in France. This fact is emphasized by some animals as deers and birds that links again the image to Modernism.
The image of Odin has been represented in many occasions with several iconographic characteristics. This is the first post about Odin, but I´ll post more interesting images of this almighty God from Norse Mythology.