The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

Comment on Norse Mythology in Thorvaldsen's Art - a Virtually Omitted Motive

Probably Nicolai Abildgaard’s painting Ymir Suckling the Cow Audhumla, ca. 1777, oil on canvas, 37×45.5 cm, National Gallery of Denmark, inv. nr. KMS3397. The painting depicts the cow Audhumla being suckled by Ymir, a Jotun, while she simultaneously licks forth Buri, another Jotun, and his son Borr, from a salty rock. In Norse mythology, Buri was ancestor to the Aesir, who again were the ancestors of human beings. Baden’s formulation, “the man licked forth from the stone [by the] cow,” is not entirely clear; but the figure that he refers to subsequently must be that of Ymir, not of Buri, even though the latter is closer to the human race than the former. For more on Abildgaard’s motifs and their Norse mythological background, see Thomas Lederballe, Nicolai Abildgaard: Kroppen i oprør, Copenhagen 2009, p. 247.

Last updated 12.01.2015