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Traditional Swedish Art Styles at the Vasa National Archives

The Vasa National Archives has just completed installation of a new exhibit looking at Swedish and Swedish-American arts and crafts. While going through our collections to find appropriate items for display, we found some surprising pieces exhibiting traditional Swedish elements among the collection. Most traditional Swedish images show Biblical stories depicted with modern settings and clothing. Kurbits and rosmålning fill empty spaces and border the main image.

One surprise piece called “Three Wise Men” by O.W. shows the three wise men following the Star to Bethelem. O.W. dyed the cloth to show the image. The wise men ride horses with small heads keeping with traditional Nordic style. Norse culture viewed horses as sacred animals, which laid the foundation for the continued status and respect horses receive today. The buildings and clothing look like 19th century styles that O.W. would have seen.

A painted canvas called “Om bröllopet i kana i galileen i judiska landet” or “About the wedding in Cana of Galilee to Judea” refers to John 2:11. This passage tells of Jesus’s first miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding. In traditional Swedish homes, a mobile hung above honored guests during special events or holidays. Many placed the mobiles over candles so the rising heat would turn the mobile. Others hung a chandelier or lighted crown over honored guests or visitors, as seen in the wedding image. In the image, Jesus sits under the chandelier talking with the groom with the rest of the wedding party to either side. The six jars of water that Jesus turned to wine sit below the table. An interesting feature that many rosmålning examples omit is the inclusion of vases holding the roses on each side of the image.

These images and many other are available for research and viewing. If you have any questions about the Vasa National Archives, our collections, or reference materials, just let us know at 309-927-3898, or look us up on Facebook.

In Truth and Unity,

Kathy Cuff

The Three Wise Men

Wedding in Cana

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