March 10, 2007

The Viking Ship at the SLAM

I went this weekend to see the new exhibit called Waking Dreams: The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites from the Delaware Art Museum at the St. Louis Art Museum. I had been anticipating this exhibit mainly because I was curious to see if there was going to be any stained glass incorporated into the exhibit. There is one stained glass panel, designed by Edward Burne-Jones and fabricated by Morris & Co., and it's a good one.

The Viking Ship, 32" x 31.5", 1883-84

The photo (a scan of the postcard as no photography is allowed at the exhibit) does not begin to do justice to this window. The colors are even more subdued in the real thing. In fact, it is amazing how much is accomplished on what is a very limited color palette. A few shades of tan, and a limited range of blues are all there is. But the richness and dynamic quality is amazing.

There is a substantial use of yellow silverstain used throughout. Any of the greens you see in the water were created by doing the silverstain on blue. The orange on the ship's banners is done with a dark stain. There are bits and pieces of stain throughout the whole piece. I would guess that a good 7o percent of the pieces have at least a touch of stain.

The painting, in particular, is superb, both in line and tone. Note that in the case of his stained glass work, Burne-jones would only have done the design. The painting, fabrication and, in large part, the color selection was done by Morris & Co, with one source crediting the glass painting to John Henry Dearle. There is one cartoon by Burne-Jones at the exhibit and there is surprisingly little detail in the design, only a roughly drawn figure with no background detail at all. I have seen other Burne-Jones cartoons that are more detailed, but those may have been at later stages, as apparently Burne-Jones mainly drew the figures and others drew in the rest.

Some closer views


More information on this panel can be seen at this docent page on the Delware Art Museum website.

The panel was created for a residence in Newport, Rhode Island, USA called "Vinland", and was part of a group of nine panels in three rows of three panels, the viking ship being top row center. There is a small picture in the exibition book showing a sketch for the entire program. The lower six windows featured figures from Nordic legends. Curiously, I could find no mention in the exhibition book or on the web as to what happened to the rest of the window.

I did find this cartoon of another section of the window - of Freya. The wikipedia article on Freya states that "she was a goddess of love, beauty, sex, and attraction. Freyja was also a goddess of war, death, magic, prophecies and wealth." Whew, I guess that's why she looks so tired. Note the boar, corresponding with the boar on the sail of the ship. His name is Hildisvini, which means 'battle swine'.

Sketch from the Birmingham Museum of Art -

You can download the ipod tour on the SLAM website, or you can go to this introduction page that links to six excerpts from the ipod tour, including one specifically for 'The Viking Ship'.

A nice feature, though the ipod tour is not terribly informative, especially in terms of the stained glass. The Delaware Art Museum Pre-Raphaelite docent pages have much more information.

Posted by Tom at March 10, 2007 12:24 PM