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The Wild Hunt for Norway:  Peter Nicolai Arbo and Artistic Hybridity in the Nineteenth-Century

Masters Thesis, defended March 2018

Read at Scholar Works

Norwegian artist and historian Peter Nicolai Arbo created Asgardsreien or The Wild Hunt of Odin in 1872, while on a sabbatical in Paris, France, under the influence of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Before his travel to Paris, Arbo attended the Kunstakademie in Dusseldorf, Germany, which proved to be an influential presence in his artwork. The Wild Hunt is not only a painting of the mythological story, but a metaphor for a hunt for national representation of his home country of Norway in the late nineteenth-century. The histories, pedagogies, and artistic trends emanating from these institutions will be detailed, which will reveal continental European tastes in art, established and progressive forms of education, and sets the stage for how Arbo's artwork changed and developed during the course of his education and travel. Although his themes never changed, his composition, color palate, and hardness of line changed in accordance to the styles he was exposed to in Dusseldorf and Paris. Asgardsreien was an attempt at creating a national identity for Norway, which was during a period of rising nationalism as Norway was on the verge of gaining its independence from Sweden. Arbo combined his training, observation, and heritage to create his master history painting; the success of this is questionable, according to critics in his contemporary. Asgardsreien stands as a hybrid between earlier genres of painting and realism, and is an example of a transitional work of art in an era of rapid modernism.

The Queen is the Most Powerful Piece: The Lewis Chessmen and Their Creator

Submitted for credit for ARTH 410, December 2016

The history of the Lewis Chessmen is highly debated and shrouded in mystery, making them some of the most highly contested objects found from the medieval era. While the who and how of their discovery is veiled in legend and highly crafted storytelling, the where remains undisputed: the Hebrides islands off the coast of Scotland. This paper will explore the story of their discovery and how they were divided, the impact chess had on the island of Iceland, the roles of women in Viking age society, as well as the most recent thesis on the creator of these chess pieces: a woman by the name of Margret the Adroit.

Beautiful Inside and Out: Exploring the Fantastical Strongbox at Oplontis B

Submitted for credit for ARTH 591, December 2016

Oplontis B, adjacent to Villa A at Torre Annunziata, Italy, gives us a rare look into the everyday life of Romans in active commerce up until the first century. This presence of living people is palpable and realized in the objects uncovered throughout the settlement. Along with pieces of portable wealth, like coins and jewelry, other pieces of material wealth were found, like thousands of amphorae, pitchers made from bronze instead of clay, marble, frescos, and a massive, highly decorated strongbox found in the northeastern portion of the peristyle courtyard. This strongbox both is a statement of wealth as well as an elegant container for portable wealth. This essay will describe the strongbox itself, explain the intricate locking system, how strongboxes were used by the Romans, and the iconography on this particular and peculiar box.

The Wild Hunt: Viking Revival in the 19th Century

Submitted for credit and presented at the Graduate Symposium for ARTH 506, December 2016

The Middle Ages undeservedly has a negative reputation, where stylized representations became more important than pursuing the Classical Ideal. In the 19th century, a revival of medieval stories was emerging in Western Europe, partially in response to rising tides of nationalism, bringing new life into old texts which effected contemporary artists, poets, and other creatives. This paper explores the medieval and Viking revival, medieval literature and its evolution into the Icelandic rímur poem style in reference to Norwegian painter Peter Nicolai Arbo and how he invented the iconography necessary to create Åsgårdsreien or the Wild Hunt of Odin painted in 1872. Backed by a foundation poem written in the 19th century by Johan Wellhaven and multiple medieval Viking artifacts, the paper employs iconographical analysis to determine if history or Academy was more influential to Arbo.


Mystery Hack: Historicizing the Penelli Sarcophagus, An Italian Forgery of an Etruscan "Artifact"

Submitted for credit for ARTH 512, April 2017

This essay utilizes Bernard Berenson’s method of Connoisseurship to identify what is and what isn’t Ancient Etruscan in the creation of the infamous nineteenth-century Penelli Sarcophagus. Almost immediately after being purchased by the British Museum in 1873, the Penelli Sarcophagus was doubted in its authenticity; however, the object was viewable to the public for sixty-one years post disproval. Now, it is sequestered, only viewable via the British Museum’s website. As well, the essay lays the foundation of the manufacture of the object by addressing the boundaries surrounding it, including the assumption by other Westerners that the Italian border encompassed only the art of the Classical era and shunned new artistic growth, a development that was prized by Italians during their flourishing art market under their new, more stable government as a unified country. The paper argues that this object could be a valuable learning aid to bridge the gap and promote cooperation between the scientific and art historical methods of detecting forgeries and validating authenticity.


Ride of the Valkyries: Viking Revival During Norwegian Romantic Nationalism

Submitted for credit for HIST 512, May 2017

After the suppression of Danish rule on the Norwegian people for a four-hundred-year period and the immediate political rule under the thumb of the Swedish monarchy, the comfort of the Enlightenment Idea of Romanticism allowed for the development of Norwegian national identity, unique from the rest of Scandinavia. This quest for identity begins with the North seeking precedence in a Classically trained world view. In the course of this paper, I will discuss the historical context of Nasjonalromantikken, Norwegian Romantic Nationalism, what it meant for the people of Norway to be Norwegian, and the rise of the Viking through arts and culture.

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