I recently heard from a Canadian with a wonderful tapestry. I hope there is a reader who will bring it from the category of mystery tapestry to known tapestry. David Andresen inherited this tapestry from his grandfather Ivar Andresen, who brought it from his childhood home in Tonsberg to Canada in the early 1950s.
I don’t know the designer nor weaver, but I had seen the image before. Peter Pap discussed it on the Antiques Road Show a few years back. Peter guessed that the tapestry was from around 1900, based on the color palette and the borders. David’s copy of the design is much less faded, in much better condition.
With mysteries, or obscure Norwegian words, one of my first steps is to contact my friend Annemor Sundbø; she often has the answer, but at the least, always has a lead, a way for me to continue my research. And of course she came through! Right away she guessed that the man on a horse was like a templar riding into the light, away from the black magic of superstition in folk belief. Soon after she identified the verse itself and the topic of the tapestry; it’s St. Olav on the horse.
I need an expert to definitively evaluate and correctly translate the many references I found (a few are below), but the story goes something like this. Olav was going to set sail, and en route he rode too close to a troll-woman, who sat and spun. She told him he was sailing too close to her kjældervæg(?). He reacted calmly and said,
Hør du, kjælling med din rok og ten,
du skal sidde, til du bliver en sten.
(Listen, troll-woman with your wheel and spindle,
You will sit until you become a stone.)
Annemor sent another clip (exact source unknown), which is not easy to translate with its combination of Gothic typeface and archaic words. But with the help of my Norwegian dictionary, an online Gothic typeface guide, and Wiktionary entries to find archaic words, this translation is a good guess. “You will hence be quiet, you slyest troll, you will be turned to stone! There you will remain until Judgement Day, and create no sadness among men.”
We know that the tapestry cartoon was woven more than once. With its depiction of St. Olav, it was likely woven during a period of National Romanticism in Norway, the late 1800s or early 1900s. This was a time with resurgent interest in both the sagas of Norwegian history and in tapestry weaving.
There may be an easy answer to identifying this intriguing tapestry. Do you know about it?