The following chronology provides a general idea for the duration and main characters of each Viking style.
Broa/Oseberg - 75Q to 84Q:
The first style named after a grave find in Broa on Gotland, Sweden, and the magnificent ship burial at Oseberg, 100 km southwest of Oslo, Norway, which contained a fantastically carved longship, a wagon, sledges, bedsteads, tent frames and a huge number of highly decorated everyday objects. The Oseberg find is the richest Viking grave find ever to be revealed anywhere in the world.
This style consists of sinuous beasts with small heads, frond-like feet and multiples of tendrils. The sinuous beasts are so highly stylised as to make them zoologically unidentifiable. It should be noted that the first 'gripping beasts' are in evidence. This is the hallmark of the true Viking styie of ornamentation.
Named after a ship burial find of bronze bridie mounts, at Borre in Vestfoid, Norway. This style is a direct descendant of the Broa style, it has two principle motifs: a gripping beast and a ring-chain link style.
The gripping beast motif consists of zoomorphic beasts with mask-like heads and with bulging eyes and Mickey Mouse ears that look out over their bodies. The bodies themselves have a simple hatch infill. The ring-chain link motif has no identifiable animals but is purely a running pattern of intertwining tendrils.
Jellinge - 88Q to l OOP
The Jellinge style takes its name from the style found on wooden and stone fragments in the Danish Royal Burial Mound at Jelling.
The Jellinge style still has beasts, however they no longer grip themselves or the surrounding frames. The ribbon-shaped bodies are still seen in profile as per the Borre style, but now the heads have pigtails, the bodies are larger, there is more hatch infill and also small spiral hips. The Borre and Jellinge styles chronologically overlap. Thus it is not uncommon to find pieces of work that are hybrids of both styles, i.e. a ribbon bodied gripping beast with pigtails.
Viking Toittoo Workbook
Mammon - 950 to 1Q6Q
The Mammen style is named after the designs on an axe found in the grave of a Danish Viking from Mammen in Jutland.
The Mammen style animal grew imperceptibly out of that of the Jellinge style. The two can be difficult to tell apart and indeed during the transitional period it would be a mistake to try to separate them. The Mammen animals become larger, realistic and more natural in proportion. Thus there was more infill and the spiral hips became much larger.
The Mammen style was not in fashion for very long, perhaps two generations. It could be said to be the transitional stage between Jellinge and Ringerike. This would be true except that before the Mammen style there was no interest in using plants, leaves or tendrils to be ornamental motifs in the form of foliate patterns, it should be noted that during the 9th and loth centuries vinescrolls and acanthus leaves were commonly used motifs in the rest of Europe.
The Ringerike style, which grew out of the Mammen style, takes its name from a district in Norway to the North of Oslo where it was used to a large degree on carved slabs of stone. The Ringerike style differs from the Mammen style in two main ways. First, the short tendrils now become a foliate pattern of regularly crossing tendrils; second, large basal spirals are common.
The wooden stave church of Urnes in Western Norway gives its name to the last phase of Viking art. The powerful beasts of the Mammen and Ringerike periods are no longer in evidence, instead the magnificent beasts now have elegant greyhound-like bodies surrounded by thin ribbons. The foliate patterns no longer truly exist; they have now become thin curving ribbons with only the odd bud or animal head to indicate their past style.
in his books UA Treasury of Viking Design", "Celtic and Old Norse Design" and "Viking Tattoo", Courtney Davis masterly introduces us to the magic wealth of these Viking images and styles in a way never before so widely exposed. Courtney Davis' long experiences with Celtic knotwork and designs have been helpful in clearly interpreting and understanding the sophisticated lines of the different Viking Art styles. I have no reservation whatsoever in considering the fascinating and analytical work "Viking Tattoo" to be one of the most important books ever published on this subject, it will surely provide an eternal inspiration for artists, craftsmen and designers, and will appeal across many generations. Furthermore, for the tattooist, this Viking Art Design book, alone or combined with the an enhance appreciation for the powerful Viking Mythology and the magical significance of the runes in the Furthark, will surely be a major step towards a new flowering of creativity and skill in this art form.
Nils E. Friis
Nils E. Friis is the owner of Gaileri Bryggen, which has focused upon presenting fascinating art from the Viking heritage, in 1999 Gaileri Bryggen hosted a solo exhibition of Courtney Davis's work.
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