|St. Martin of
Woodcuts after an
Icelandic medieval embroidery in the Louvre Museum, Paris
These prints are woodcuts, freely rendered after images on a medieval Icelandic altar
frontal in the possession of the Louvre Museum in Paris. They show twelve scenes
from the life of St. Martin of Tours, patron saint of
Thorgerdur prepared herself on
two working-trips to France, first in 1994, supported by the
Christianity Fund in Iceland (Kristnisjódur) and was also
granted the Icelandic studio Kjarvalsstofa in the Cité
Internationale des Arts in Paris for two months. In 1995 she went
to Tours and Paris,
this time assisted by the Icelandic Fire
Insurance Company (Brunabótafélag Íslands).
The prints themselves were completed during a working period in
Hveragerdi-town in Iceland that yielded a dwelling house and a
The dimensions of most of the
woodcuts are 75 X 102 cm, 102 X 75 cm and 38 X 38 cm. They were
printed on 330 gr Velin Arches paper. The prints are only made in
one example each.
a larger picture of the altar frontal in the Louvre Museum, Paris.
has been suggested by scholars that the altar frontal
(antependium) which inspired the artist was made in the
Benedictine nunnery of Reynistadur in Skagafjordur in
North-Iceland around 1400-1500.
It is an example of the peculiar
Icelandic laid and couch work (refilsaumur) which in technique and
materials is closely related to the French Bayeux tapestry (11th
 Fourteen such
Icelandic embroideries have survived, half of them in foreign
The altar frontal belonged to
the church of Grenjadarstadur (in the county of S.-Thingeyjarsysla)
which was consecrated to St. Martin during the Roman-catholic era
(until the Reformation in 1550).
A French medical doctor and
explorer, Paul Gaimard, acquired the cloth in Grenjadarstadur
during his expedition to Iceland in 1836.
It has at least since
1853 been in the possession of the Louvre Museum in Paris where it
is part of the permanent exhibition of treasures in the department
of art objects.
Look for it in the deparment of "Objets d'art",
in the Richelieu-wing, 1st floor, room 3, item nr. "lab. 1117".
 See: Elsa E. Gudjonsson:
Traditional Icelandic Embroidery. Iceland Review,
Reykjavík 1985, 14.
Prints from the series have been shown at various
Gerdarsafn, Art Museum of Kópavogur, Iceland, 1995
Hallgrims-church in Reykjavík, Iceland, 1996
Varmahlid, Hveragerdi, Iceland, 1996
Fella- og Hóla-church, Reykjavík, Iceland, 1996
Akureyri-church, Akureyri, Iceland 1997
Lauderdale House, Waterlow Park, Highgate Hill, London, 1998.
Grafarvogur's-Church, Reykjavík,Iceland, 1999
Landa-Church, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland, 1999
Sightlines, International Print-Artist Cooperatives'
Exhibitions, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 1997
official collections have acquired examples from the
Art Collection of the University of Iceland (Listasafn
Art Museum of Reykjavík (Listasafn Reykjavíkur)
Art Collection of the Hallgrims-church, Reykjavík
Grenjaðarstadur-church in S. - Thingeyjarsysla, Iceland
Fella- and Hola church in Reykjavík (Fella- og
Grafarvogur's-Church, Reykjavík ( Grafarvogskirkja)