Scandinavian Animal Tapestries (and a Couple of Abstracts)

The display up at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota through April 12, 2019, “Scandinavian Tapestry Treasures from the Collection of Carol Johnson,” is divided into broad categories, for the sake of arrangement on the walls. We are so appreciative of the opportunity to see this collection at the Weavers Guild of Minnesota; this is one of a series of posts to document the weavings for those who can’t visit in person.

Previous posts have displayed the tapestries in the people category and the floral category. The remaining categories are: buildings, landscapes, and ships; abstracts; and animals. “Other” was a useful final category to display some figurative pieces that aren’t strictly tapestry. Photos of all the walls are here.

Carol’s collection includes two rölakan versions of the Swedish Bäckahäst, the river or sea horse, a popular Swedish tapestry image. This mythological creature was thought to lure people to ride on their backs and then plunge into the river. Although I thought this was a dragon-like creature spouting fire, I have seen a few references to a lily in the mouth of the horse.

23″ X 25″, excluding fringes


28″ x 20″, excluding fringes

In the early 1900s the Handcraft Associations in Norway (Husfliden) and Sweden (Hemslöjden), in an attempt to revive traditional handcrafts, sold weaving patterns based on historical pieces.  This billedvev piece in Carol’s collection was likely from a pattern from Husfliden in Norway.

23″ x 21″, excluding fringes

This image is from a cushion cover is in a set of books of Norwegian medieval tapestries compiled by Henrik Grosch–clearly the same design.

Rölakan with birds and deer.

17.5 ” x 19″, excluding fringes

It is woven with such small squares.  Looking at the back makes me think, “That was so much work!”

This single interlock rutevev hanging is likely from a pattern by noted Norwegian designer Else Poulsson, who worked in a variety of textile techniques. Poulsson was the head of Den Norske Husflidsforening (the National Handcraft Association) for 25 years, beginning in 1929. While her abstracted patterns were sometimes compared to spare patterns of German Bauhaus designs, her images focused on Norwegian culture; rural people in traditional costumes were frequent subjects.

A similar horse and rider design is found in an entry about Else Poulsson in the Store Norske Leksikon (Large Norwegian Encyclopedia).

15.5″ x 18.5″, excluding fringes

A popular Swedish flamsk pattern is the red lion surrounded by a laurel wreath and on a background of flowers. Over 70 tapestries with the lion image still exist from the historical 1750-1850 time period. Here is the example owned by Carol, woven in the 20th century.

20.5″ x 19″, excluding fringes

The small house or castle behind the lion is also typical of the design.  Crazy lion teeth!

Grazing sheep with looped fleeces.

10″ x 12″, including loops

A rölakan chicken.

8.5″ x 9.25″, excluding fringe

This flamsk chicken almost vibrates with bright color.

13.5″ x 9″

Sweet small birds.

5″ x 4.25″

And three more tapestries: Abstract


14″ x 18″

Rölakan star.

10″ x 10″


11″ x 11″, excluding fringes

Two articles in 2018 in the Norwegian Textile Letter give background on Carol Johnson’s background and how she came to own so many amazing Scandinavian weavings.

A Passionate Pursuit: Scandinavian Weavings from the Collection of Carol Johnson

Dipping Into Carol Johnson’s Tapestry Collection

From my blog:




As usual, if you have additional information on any of the patterns of these pieces, let me know; I’d love to share the information.


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