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Peter Nicolai Arbo

Åsgårds heron

Åsgårds heron

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Peter Nikolai Arbo's large painting, "Åsgårdsreien", has its origins in Norse mythology, archaeological excavations and the national romantic poetry of his time. First of all, it is Johan Sebastian Welhaven's poem of the same title that forms the basis, where the opening line reads: "Lydt gännem Luften i Natten farer et Tog paa skemmende blacke Heste" (from Nyere Digte, 1844).

Menacing hordes

Arbo was interested in history and painted several versions of the motif. In the watercolour, the entourage comes directly towards us, while in the painting we see it from the side. The hordes that threaten us above a dramatic sky are depicted in detail.

"In Stormgang the wild Hordes drag.

they have only Clouds for Foothold.

It goes over Dal, over Vang and Hei,

through Mulm and Veir; they end up not.

The wanderer throws himself in fear on the Way.

Listen which Gny - it's the Asgaardsreien!"

Johan Sebastian Welhaven, 1844

Norse gods

Above the desolate, moonlit landscape, the heavenly horsemen swarm forward, closely followed by Odin, the main god of Norse mythology. The god of war Thor thunders forth with raised hammer, he calls out to the goats Tanngnjost and Tanngrisne who pull the cart. After the entourage, it lights up as if on fire - could it be Helheim we glimpse?

"When the bell rings, then there is a noise

of Bells and jingling riding clothes,

then the Svaermen howls and the People listen

with rising Anxiety in the quivering Cabins."

Johan Sebastian Welhaven, 1844

Inspired by romance

The picture's doomsday atmosphere and dramatic composition have several features from romanticism: the contrast between life and death, light and shadow, proximity and distant elements.

You had to stay away

Both Welhaven's poems and Arbo's pictures depict the Åsgårds heron as a threatening and frightening companion, and according to folktales it was important to stay away when the Åsgårds heron passed over the firmament.

The word origin

It was in the 19th century that the national romantics began to use the word "Åsgårdsreien". The original word was "Oskoreia". Linguist and poet Ivar Aasen believed that the word "oskoreia" came from "ofsleg" and "reida", a frightening, riding entourage.

Date: 1872

Other titles: The wild Hunt of Odin (ENG)

Designation: Painting

Material and technique: Oil on canvas

Technique: Oil

Material: Canvas

Dimensions: 166 x 240.5 cm

Subject: Visual arts

Classification:532 - Visual arts

Motif: Folklore

Motif type: Mythological scene or figure

Religious scene or person

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