Seminar “Art Contacts in Late Medieval Sweden”
The Niguliste Museum cordially invites you to join us for the seminar Art Contacts in Late Medieval Sweden on the occasion of the exhibition Michel Sittow in the North? Altarpieces in Dialogue.
The seminar will present the latest research on Swedish late medieval art.
- Herman Bengtsson will present his monograph Riddaren och draken: en rekonstruerad historia (The Knight and the Dragon: a Reconstructed History), (2022), and his latest study of the St. George and the Dragon sculpture group in Stockholm’s Storkyrkan.
- Pia Bengtsson Melin looks at Västra Ed’s magnificent altarpiece (1526), which has so far received little attention in art history. The altarpiece is a fascinating blend of medieval and renaissance in both style and iconography, and it is still not entirely clear where it was made.
The knight and the dragon: a reconstructed history of Bernt Notke’s sculpture group in Stockholm
Herman Bengtsson, PhD
Associate Professor, Institute of Art History, Uppsala University
The presentation will introduce the most recent study of the sculpture group of St George and the dragon in Stockholm’s Storkyrka (St Nicholas Church), attributed to Bernt Notke’s workshop, in accordance with Herman Bengtsson’s monograph Riddaren och draken: en rekonstruerad historia (The Knight and the Dragon: a Reconstructed History), (2022). Here some of the traditional myths associated with the St George group are rejected. This includes the opinion that the sculptures were commissioned by the Swedish governor Sten Sture as a victory monument after the successful battle of Brunkeberg, near Stockholm, in 1471, when the Danish King Christian I was defeated. Some art historians have also claimed that Sten Sture and his wife Ingeborg wanted to be buried under this monument.
A closer study of the late medieval and early modern sources indicates that the St George group was made within a completely different context in the 1480s. One of the main reasons for the commission seems to have been Sten Sture’s involvement in a crusade against the enemies of Christianity that was initiated by Pope Innocent VIII. The sculptures were probably made in a temporary workshop in Stockholm under the guidance of Bernt Notke. Some of the main figures, including the knight and the dragon, were finished by 1489, but it seems as if the monument was still under construction in the early 1490s. This may also explain why Notke was still in Stockholm in 1491, 1492 and 1493.
Herman Bengtsson is an associate professor in art history at Uppsala University and a researcher at the Uppland Museum. He is currently involved in a research project on the Lund Cathedral in southern Sweden. Bengtsson’s research interests include medieval ecclesiastical art in the Nordic countries, as well as courtly culture and profane art. He was the editor-in-chief and one of the main authors of a nine-volume study of the history and art history of Uppsala Cathedral (published 2010‒2016 in the series Sveriges Kyrkor). Most recently, he published a monograph on Bernt Notke’s St George’s group in Stockholm’s Storkyrka (2022).
The Altarpiece from Västra Ed
Pia Bengtsson Melin, PhD
Senior Curator of Medieval and Ecclesiastical Art, National Historical Museums in Sweden
The Västra Ed church in Småland was built in the 12th century and demolished in 1867. A large altarpiece, donated by Anna Arvidsdotter Trolle in 1526, remained on the high altar even after the Reformation and until the church was torn down. In 1867 the altarpiece was sent to Stockholm and is now a part of the collections of the Swedish History Museum. The altarpiece shows an exciting mixture of medieval and renaissance in terms of both style and iconography, and it is still not entirely clear where it was manufactured. This paper will discuss both the iconography and questions regarding its provenance.
The altarpiece from Västra Ed has in earlier art history writing posed similar research questions as the Bollnäs Holy Kinship altarpiece currently on display in Tallinn at the exhibition Michel Sittow in the North? Altarpieces in Dialogue. Although made in different regions and by different masters, the stylistic pluralism of the Västra Ed altarpiece, its iconography, and its use of different types of wood raise questions about late medieval artistic practices and traditions in the Baltic Sea region.
Pia Bengtsson Melin earned a PhD in art history at Stockholm University. She works as Senior Curator of Medieval and Ecclesiastical Art at the Department of Collections and Research at the National Historical Museums in Sweden. Her research is mainly focused on late medieval mural painting and medieval crafts, but she has also studied the history of conservation and exhibitions. She has published several books and articles on these subjects and participates as an author in the volumes on Uppsala and Lund Cathedrals in Sveriges Kyrkor.