Friday, January 14, 2011

Rosemaling -- Norwegian hand-painted decorative motifs

My mother married an Iowan of Norwegian descent some years ago. He is second generation so he inherited a lot of Norwegian lore and lifestyle. They live in Florida but her husband often wears Norwegian sweaters and they possess a large collection of Norwegian arts and crafts. One object of theirs I have always lusted after is a large wooden Rosemaling tray that rests on the their huge square glass coffee table. The tray is also of grand proportions and they have books and magazines stacked inside. The design is a traditional hand-painted floral motif.  The real thing from Norway can be incredibly expensive as this is a traditional folk art and its rare to find older examples. Modern artists continue the tradition but a real old-style Rosemaling object is something to treasure.
Right after moving to Atlanta I scoured all the great antique and collectible spots around town for decorative objects for the apartment. I brought a long coffee table I had bought in Houston in 2000 which we had never used in the NJ Colonial house. It was in the attic used as support for bins containing Christmas decorations. I love the table. It's an authentic handmade Mexican table which I'll feature in another post. Since I brought a long Ethan Allen upholstered sofa for the apartment living room this long Mexcian table was paired with the same sofa when I had an apartment in Houston.  Long story short. The table is so huge I needed a focal point and thought of a tray large enough to hold cocktail napkins, paper coasters and the media remotes for the television as my sofa faces the TV.  I found the perfect tray almost as soon as I knew I needed one. It was at a great Atlanta consignment store (saving that for later post as well). The minute I spotted it I knew it was mine. It was a generous 13 x 18 inches with a 2 inch border with delicate oval cuts in the sides for handles. The colors were just right to contrast with my medium-brown stained table. The decorative motif was centered on the tray. In the center, symmetrical petals bloomed surrounded by the most delicate leaves and tendrils that resemble teardrops. What's really special about this motif are the two prominent tulip-shaped unopened buds that appear to be carvings instead of painting, giving the design very three-dimensional effect.

I like to  think my wooden tray is an example of Norwegian Rosemaling; the technique is used in many Scandinavian countries but differs in emphasis depending on where its made. I'm no expert and folk art is not usually my preference for decorative arts, but I know have a Rosemaling tray facing me every day on my coffee table. I don't have to envy Mom's anymore.

Contrast with dark stain of the coffee table

I love the tray's shape and creamy background color

The pink unopened tulip bulb looks sculptural with a 3-D illusion
 when seen from above or a little distance.

This Rosemaling motif has more delicacy than most
due to the large area devoted to tendrils and leaves
rotating away from the central floral pattern

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