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Listasafn Reykjavíkur / Reykjavik Art Museum

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Ásmundur Sveinsson


66 cm
45 cm

Head Ransom was made by Ásmundur in Reykjavík in 1948. It is a depiction of saga hero Egill Skallagrímsson on the night when, according to his saga, he composed a poem of tribute to his captor, Erik Blood-Axe, in order to save himself from execution (the poem is known as Höfuðlausn or “Head Ransom”). Egill is depicted with a harp, and a female figure symbolising the goddess of poetry. In fact it is a staged scene – Egill rests his foot on a small tussock or rock – in which the artist counterposes an idea and “reality”: on the one hand Egill the historical personage, and on the other an allegory of poetry. The piece is a reference to the Saga of Egill, but the artist makes no attempt to depict Egill’s character. In an interview in daily Vísir on 5 January 1963, Ásmundur said: “My idea is that I don’t want to make an image of those old saga characters; I prefer each person to imagine for himself how they looked. What I do is to compose a sort of symphony in commemoration of them. That’s why my sculptures are so abstract that no-one who sees them could imagine that Egill looked like that.”

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