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Traditional Icelandic Embroidery

Traditional Icelandic Embroidery

By Elsa E. Gudjonsson

Reykjavik Icelandic Review (1982)

Medieval embroidery on display the National Museum of Iceland.

Introduction: Iceland was settled largely from Norway in the period from AD 874 to about 930. In 930, the first republic was established, and it lasted until 1262 when the Icelanders submitted to the King of Norway. Iceland remained under Norwegian rule until about 1380 when, together with Denmark, it became subject to the Danish Crown.  Partial autonomy was acquired in 1918, but it was not until 1944 that Iceland gained complete independence from Denmark with the establishment of the second republic.

The collections of the National Museum of Iceland in Reykjavik, containing objects of cultural and historical significance from all periods of the country’s history, include the group of domestically produced embroideries to be discussed here. A thorough examination is not possible within the limits of a short article; in addition, detailed studies of many of the embroideries have yet to be undertaken. An attempt will be made, however, to describe the most typical work wrought during the past centuries by Icelandic needlewomen, who, apparently taking great delight in their craft, produced embroideries intended to enhance not only the churches, but their homes and dress as well.

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