Viking Art

Vikings are best remembered as warrior people which left an indelible imprint on European history. Ranging far and wide from their homelands in Scandinavia, the Vikings largely shaped the contemporary history of their neighboring regions.

Although fond of war and battle, Vikings enjoyed a love for art and music as well. They would carve decorations on their axes, swords, ship panels, knives, runes, and walls. Plant and animal motifs figure consistently in Viking art depictions. Viking art is categorized in six distinct styles.

These include the Borre, Oseberg, Jelling, Mammen, Urnes, and Ringerike styles. Each style has its own prominent features and characteristics.

Oseberg Style

The Oseberg style is one of the early Vikings’ art styles. It takes its name from a longship, which is well preserved and decorated. The longship was found in Vestfold, Norway. The most prominent feature of this style is the gripping beast which is used in many other styles as well.

In the gripped beast motif, a paw is gripping the borders, the neck, neighboring beasts, and its own parts as well. This motif is seen in a wide range of Viking art objects which signifies its importance in the Viking society for a time.

Borre Style

The Borre style takes its name from an archaeological find in Borre, Norway. In a number of burial mounds, objects were found that signified the Borre style as a distinct Viking art style.

A distinct feature of this art style is a creature with a cat-like face depicted on pendants and various other metal objects. The creature has protruding ears and often shown with a triangular head. Borre style is seen in Viking objects recovered from Russia, England, and Iceland as well which shows that it was a distinct style.

Jelling Style

The Jelling style is related to Borre but also distinct in its own might. It dates from the 10th century and is identified by elaborate stylistic depictions of animals. Like the Borre style, animals in Jelling style artifacts are depicted with spiraled features and profiled heads.

Mammen style

The Mammen style is an evolution of the Jelling style in the latter half of the 10th century. This style signifies more rounded and intricate patterns along with the familiar animal motif. However, even the animal depictions in this style are more intricate, diverse, and advanced. The Mammen style is also characterized by inlays of gold and silver.

Ringerike Style

Ringerike style became a prevalent art style among Vikings in the early 11th century. The style utilizes familiar plant and animal motifs although their renderings are more refined. The animals are often depicted with thinner and more curved features.

Urnes Style

The Urnes style is dated to the 12th century. Its name was taken from a stave church in Urnes, Norway from where artifacts in this style were recovered. The animals rendered in this style have more prominent features. In one case, a greyhound-like creature is seen in a fight with a serpent.