Thorgerdur Sigurdardóttir





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St. Martin of Tours

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 France.


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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 studio.

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.

The inspiration
See a larger picture of the altar frontal in the Louvre Museum, Paris. 

It 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 century). [1] Fourteen such Icelandic embroideries have survived, half of them in foreign museums.

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".

[1] See: Elsa E. Gudjonsson: Traditional Icelandic Embroidery. Iceland Review, Reykjavík 1985, 14.

Prints from the series have been shown at various exhibitions

Solo  exhibitions

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

Group exhibition

Sightlines, International Print-Artist Cooperatives' Exhibitions, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada 1997

These official collections have acquired examples from the series:

Art Collection of the University of Iceland (Listasafn Háskóla Íslands)

Art Museum of Reykjavík (Listasafn Reykjavíkur)

Art Collection of the Hallgrims-church, Reykjavík (Listasafn Hallgrímskirkju)

Grenjaðarstadur-church in S. - Thingeyjarsysla, Iceland (Grenjadarstadakirkja)

Fella- and Hola church in Reykjavík (Fella- og Hólakirkja)

Grafarvogur's-Church, Reykjavík ( Grafarvogskirkja)

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