The Funeral of a Viking
Europe, United Kingdom, England
First floor: Victorian
Oil paint on canvas
186.4 x 305.5 cm
The Funeral of a Viking 1893
Sir Frank Bernard Dicksee 1853 - 1928
Oil on canvas
A Viking killed in battle is laid out in his boat
which has been ceremonially set ablaze
and is being pushed out to sea with the tide.
Fire and water will combine to release the spirit,
allowing the heroic warrior to enter Valhalla,
the god Odin's glorious Hall of the Slain.
The vantage point that Dicksee has selected
invites the viewer to feel they are part of the crowd
gathered in the gloom for this ancient ceremony.
Viking subjects were unusual in Victorian art
although Norsk mythology was becoming popular.
Dicksee may have been inspired by a funeral scene
in the Anglo Saxon poem Beowulf
or perhaps by the discovery of a Viking ship burial
which was excavated in 1893, in Gokstad, Norway.
The shortage of genuine Viking material available
meant that Dicksee had to draw on his imagination,
painting an artistic mix of Viking shields,
Roman body armour and Celtic horned helmets.
Presented by Arthur Burton in memory of his mother 1928.13