The Nordiska Museum in Stockholm devotes a great deal of space to Swedish courting and wedding customs, for good reason. In Sweden, folk art is still revered.
For centuries, humble rural people in little towns and villages all over Sweden celebrated love and marriage and family using the materials at hand: wood, yarn, thread, and simple fabrics.
A young man courting a young woman used to spend many hours carving an elaborate wooden spoon as proof of his devotion. The woman’s parents would also be interested in the young man’s skills and willingness to work; wood carving was a necessity of life in poor farming communities where most anything had to be made by hand.
After the wedding, the courting spoon was hung on the wall of the new couple’s kitchen, but wood-carving never ended. Country people took inspiration and materials from the natural world around them. The handy little table above incorporated a twisted tree branch as a decorative snake. Did the wood-carver’s wife appreciate having a snake forever in her house? Personally, I’d have relegated the snake table to the guy’s Man Cave. But that’s just me.
I’d have loved the little dog bench, though.
Brides spent many hours making wedding finery which was then passed down through generations. The hours were precious, stolen from housework and farm work.
Material could be precious, too–colorful scraps of silk and cotton lovingly worked into heirlooms.
Wedding finery was carefully packed away for future brides and grooms.
A bride might surprise her groom with a special wedding vest.
I love the handwork on this one, and I’m sure the embroidered designs had special meaning for the couple.
A colorful wedding proclamation was another treasured keepsake, for those who could afford it.
A special tapestry or painted wall hanging might do double duty as a Biblical lesson about Adam and Eve, and a decoration on the wall at the wedding feast.
Then as now, getting married can be tiring work. A mannequin in the museum shows a bride falling asleep in her wedding outfit, maybe during the feast. But I’m sure she’s about to wake up full of energy to start her married life.
Happy Valentine’s Day to lovers, past, present and future!
Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!