What Is Viking Art? Different Styles & Importance

What Is Viking Art? Different Styles & Importance

Viking art is a term used to refer to the art of Scandinavia during the Vikings' era, until around the year 1000. The art is known for its fantastic animal designs and richly detailed patterns. This article will go through a brief history of Viking Art and its production across Scandinavia.

Viking art has an amazing legacy that can still be enjoyed today in museums around Europe thanks to archeological excavations from ancient Viking settlements. 

What Is Viking Art?

Viking art, sometimes known as Norse art, is the term used to describe the visual arts of the Viking Age (the period from the late eighth century to the mid-eleventh century) in the Norse-speaking kingdoms of Europe, such as Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

In the beginning, Viking art was based on Nordic art traditions but eventually assimilated many elements from the Carolingian Empire and the Byzantine Empire. Some of the earliest pieces are from jewelry such as brooches and torcs or neck-rings, which were made in various metals.

Nowadays, most of these can be found in museums across Scandinavia, but there are still many Scandinavian items that were traditionally handed down from father to son or mother to daughter as heirlooms.

Viking Art Styles

Oseberg Style

This is the style of Viking art that was used to decorate the burial chamber of Oseberg. The name may be a bit confusing, because it was the typical style used to decorate shields, weapons, and other items made in Scandinavia during this time frame.

The artistic style may have been borrowed from the Southern Slavs (Swines), who were known for their high-quality ceramics and metalwork. This is distinguished from other styles due to its simple characters such as plain surfaces with simple line accents and low reliefs.

Birka Style

Birka Style is also known as the "Silver Style". The style was named by the Swedish historian and archaeologist Johan Må Nsson, who called it so because of its strong link with silver utilized for decorative purposes.

Many scholars have suggested that the Birka Style was not used in Scandinavia prior to 900, but that is still a matter of debate. It was in use during the Viking Age from about 900 CE to 1015 CE.

This style can be distinguished from other styles due to its high relief, carvings of animals with human features (which were previously rarely seen before), and large figures concerning other styles. This style is typically found in jewelry and weapons.


Jellinge Style

This is the name of a Viking art style that was used to decorate monumental rune stones in Denmark and Sweden. This art style was widespread in Scandinavia, but there were many variations in both design and use of materials such as wood, stone, and metal.

The majority of these items were made locally rather than being imported from other Scandinavian countries or abroad. The Jelling Style is thought by many to have been inspired by the Carolingian style, which was considered to be a northern variant of the Roman Empire's art.

The Otta Style

The Otta style is also known as the "Ottar Style" or "the Viking Age" style. This art developed in Kattegat during the last decades of the Viking Age, it was first identified by Anders Winroth from Sweden in 1988, who named it after Ottar, a Swedish king who died at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030 CE.

This style is distinguished by its two-dimensional geometric patterns, which were typically made of wood and metal. The use of wood declined as the Viking Age began to draw to a close, while metal was favored during this time frame thanks to its rich variety of elements.

Skandish Style

This is the art style that was used in Skandinavia from the 11th century to the 15th century. The style is often described as "Scandinavian", but other cultures such as the Norwegians and Icelanders also had their Skandish art traditions.

The Standish Style has common motifs with similar art styles that were used in Central Asia and Russia.

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Finno-Ugric Art

Finno-Ugric Art is a term used to refer to art that was made by the various people living in Scandinavia before the arrival of the Vikings. There are many different designs in different regions, including designs that have evolved but continued to follow classic traditions.

Examples include the kubbe Gubi Aga (a shamanistic pillar carving), and the Edo-konyha (an ironwork passageway). 

The History of Viking Art

The expansion of the Viking empire through trade, travel, and conquest may be traced back to the late 8th century, when the first Viking artworks were created. Art created by Vikings evolved over the course of the next few centuries, affected by factors such as trade and interaction with other cultures, as well as the availability of new materials.

Simple geometric designs or animal motifs were commonly employed to embellish useful objects like weapons and implements in early Viking Age art. The Vikings adapted new artistic forms and methods as they made contact with other cultures, particularly the Anglo-Saxons and the Byzantines.

By the end of the Viking Age, Viking art had taken on a more decorative and ornamental tone, with more attention paid to creating jewelry, textiles, and metalwork. Also around this time, inscribed stones called Viking runestones began to be used to honor significant individuals or events.

The 10th and 11th centuries were the zenith of Viking art's development and popularity, and it has since endured as a wellspring of interest and inspiration.

Why is Viking Art important?

There are many reasons to value Viking artwork. For starters, it's a significant historical artifact in Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The ideals, beliefs, and way of life of the Viking people are all reflected in it, making it a fascinating window into Viking history and society.

The second reason why Viking art is significant is the impact it had on the later evolution of European art. Several cultures, notably the Anglo-Saxons, the Byzantines, and the Celts, all left their mark on Viking art. It also had an impact on later art movements like the Romanesque.

Third, Viking art is significant because it has influenced modern conceptions of the Vikings. Viking art has become a symbol of the Viking Age and the Viking people and is often the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions the Vikings.

Last but not least, Viking art is significant since it is a historical expression that is being studied and enjoyed today. It is an integral aspect of the Vikings' cultural history and a constant wellspring for creatives and academics.

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