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Middle Ages without borders: a conversation on medievalism

Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri
Pierre Savy
Lila Yawn

b) The Middle Ages in the pictorial arts and design

1) Agnes Slott-Møller – a Danish Pre-Raphaelite

Lis Møller

Texte intégral

1In 1888, the young Danish painter Agnes Slott-Møller (1862-1937) travelled to Italy to see for herself the medieval artworks she had only known from lectures in art history. Her experience of Italian medieval art was a revelation that set her course as an artist. In her autobiography she writes: “Without at that time having ever heard of the modern English school of painters who in their partiality for pre-Raphaelite Italian art called themselves ‘Pre-Raphaelites,’ I became directly and immediately a Danish ‘Pre-Raphaelite.’” What Slott-Møller found in Italian medieval art was first of all a romantic vision of the Middle Ages as a golden age of noble youth, high ideals, and beauty. She brought this vision to bear on a material that exerted a life-long fascination on her: Danish folk balladry from the Middle Ages. Throughout the nineteenth century, these ballads had inspired Danish poets and writers. However, Slott-Møller was the first painter to make the ballads her main motif. As a woman in an almost exclusively male art world and as (perhaps) the only Pre-Raphaelite in Danish art, Slott-Møller was largely marginalized during her lifetime. Recently, however, two exhibitions of her oeuvre have called attention to this almost forgotten artist. I hope to show that her belated recognition is well-deserved. Agnes Slott-Møller may not be a great painter, but she is certainly an interesting one. My paper will focus on the clash in Slott-Møller’s art between her medieval sources and subjects (Italian medieval art and medieval ballads) and her modern naturalistic style of painting. This clash is particularly pertinent in paintings referring to ballads with a supernatural content, for instance in two paintings (1899/1913) based on the ballad Tidemand og Blidelil. Slott-Møller’s rendition of Blidelil flying in a suit of feathers (!) over a deep blue sea may be reminiscent of Giotto’s depiction of angels. Trained, however, as a plein-air painter, she painted the seascape in a quite naturalistic manner. The overall result is striking—dreamlike, almost surrealistic.


Aarhus University

© Publications de l’École française de Rome, 2021

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