University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group > ‘Viking' Audiences and Agents: Analyzing display to interpret the social significance of free-standing human imagery in Scandinavia, AD 500-1200

‘Viking' Audiences and Agents: Analyzing display to interpret the social significance of free-standing human imagery in Scandinavia, AD 500-1200

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The art of Scandinavia, AD 500 -1200, was dominated by geometric animal decorations. Free-standing, semi-naturalistic human imagery was less common and appeared on objects associated with the elites of society. This style of imagery first appeared in Scandinavia during the early 6th century AD and continued into the early medieval period. This imagery has been found on a range of objects including gold, stone monuments, tapestries, churches, and jewelry. The goal of my research is to understand the meaning of the free-standing, human image tradition in Scandinavian society, AD 500 -1200. To do this, I am analyzing how the images were displayed. My thesis argues that to interpret the social meaning/purpose of art of past cultures, two elements need to be first established: who was displaying the art (agent) and who was viewing the art (audience). The materials (gold, monumental stone, tapestry) used to make the art object, can identify the agent by indicating the social status, wealth or skill of the agents involved. The manner in which the art displayed can indicate what scale of audience (divine, social, public) the art was intended for. Once the agents and audiences are established, the social intentions of this art tradition can be inferred through an analysis of the agent/audience relationship.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group series.

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