Bebådelsemotivet i svenska kistebrev

  • Johan Curman


The subject of the Annunciation in Swedish ”chest-prints” A comparison is made between the Annunciation as a subject in art and in Swedish-Danish chest-prints (a kind of woodcut). The action of the Archangel Gabriel is analysed from a right/left viewpoint. The Annunciation as a subject in art has changed from Old Christian times to our days. Some of the changes are shown in figs. 2–5; dates are given in the captions. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the angel usually arrives from the left. In the Swedish chest-prints the Annunciation is more or less unchanged from the first print of 1757 to the last one of 1856, figs. 1, 6–10. It was probably the woodcutting technique which kept the picture in the same simple form. A new block was produced by copying an existing chest-print or some other pattern. When tracing directly on the block by means of tracingpaper the print will be reversed. Therefore, if you want the print to be turned the right way, you have to draw a reversed copy on the block, perhaps by using a mirror. Studying the details of the chest-prints enables you to find the mutual connections between the Danish and Swedish Annunciation; see chart next to fig. 9. The Swedish Annunciation uses two Danish chest-prints as patterns, figs. 9, 11. Angel from the right or from the left – this relates to the direction as seen by the viewer. The view is changed if seen from the position of the participants. In fig. 11 the angels holds the flower in his right hand but in fig. 10 in his left. The meaning of the subject is naturally for the Archangel to carry a message from God and not for him to give a flower to the Virgin Mary. When performing his mission he raises his hand in a blessing gesture. Naturally the right hand. The meaning of the subject demands that the scene is shown as in fig. 10. A survey of the subject of the Annunciation in art shows that the Archangel always blesses with his right hand. In his left hand he may hold a flower or a staff. Fig. 12 shows the execption that proves the rule. Thus, the two Danish chest-prints are turned the wrong way, fig. 9 and 11. The reason for this may be a reversing when they were traced from some so far unknown original.