The Nationalmuseum in Stockholm Acquires a Painting by Nils Andersson

Nils Andersson (1817-1865)
Heimdall Returning the Brisin Necklace to Freya, 1846
Oil on canvas - 84 x 67 cm
Stockholm, Nationalmuseum
Photo Uppsala Auktionskammare

13/9/13 - Acquisition - Stockholm, Nationalmuseum - The subject is drawn from Norse mythology. Heimdall Returning the Brisin Necklace to Freyja was painted by the Swedish artist, Nils Andersson in 1846. Sold at the Auktionskammare in Upsala on 13 June 2013 for 22,000 crowns, it now resides at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm.

The painter turned for inspiration to the legend narrated in Edda, the 13th century epic attributed to the Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) : Freyja, the goddess of fertility, owned the Brisingamen necklace ; when she wore it, neither god nor man could resist her charms. A version of this story recounts how she was willing to pay any price to acquire this piece of jewelry made by four dwarves, offering them gold and silver ; but they accepted only on condition that she spend a night alone with each of them, which she did. In any case, a certain Loki, a little known divinity, a troublemaker with evil intentions, stole the necklace from her and hid it in the middle of the ocean. The goddess received the help of Heimdall, the guard of the Bifröst bridge which leads to the city of the gods, Asgard ; he is easily identified by the horn he is carrying, Gjallarhorn, which he blows to alert of danger. The legend says that he was transformed into a seal in order to recover the necklace and return it to Freyja.

The author of this painting, Nils Andersson, is not very well known ; he started out painting theater décors then produced genre scenes of which there are several examples at the museum in Stockholm. Here, he ventured out into history painting, exhibiting this work for the contest organized in 1846 by the Swedish Royal Academy which selected a different theme every year. Among the painters which represented the subject, Nils Blommer (1816-1853) submitted a very similar composition : the goddess is sitting on her throne, while Heimdall is standing in front of her and is handing over the necklace. Andersson, however, focused on the two main characters, not adding any other figures or attributes - Freyja notably could have been depicted wearing a robe with falcon feathers or driving her chariot led by cats. In fact both are dressed in clothes which look antique rather than specifically Nordic. The painter emphasizes the rhetorical gestures of the protagonists - their hands coming together at the center of the composition - in a balanced presentation, influenced by French Classicism.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, mardi 17 septembre 2013

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