Bragi und Idun

The first image I came across on my search for an artist with my mother’s maiden name was this image you see above. I first found the image on an art auction website and in its description the following:

Artist: Edmund Herger 1860-1906

Title: Bragi und Idun
Medium: mixed media
size: 81 ✗ 114cm (31.9 ✗ 44.9 in.)

That was about it, no description or an actual date on the piece itself. What I understood quickly was that I could put an approximate date on the life of this artist and proceeded to try and track where exactly was this artist from. Through several additional searches I located the artist to be from Renda, Renda-Teichel, Germany, a small town between Frankfurt and Leipzig, Germany. Personally I found it very interesting to actual put our family name in Germany and by looking at where he died , Munich, Germany, I suddenly came to terms that Edmund Herger would be harder to track down than I initially thought. The reason is that Herger died between the years 1906 and 1907, this meant he was between 45 or 47 years old by the time he passed away. By today’s standards he not only died young but there is no clear record that I have found that can help me date accurately when he passed away. And as I continued my search it was more than clear that this would and is the case for Herger.

For me to continue the research I focused my attention to what Edmund Herger was creating and so I looked back at “Bragi und Idun”. With my very remedial German skills I continued to dissect the title. I did know that the word “und” in German means “and” in the English language, all that was left was to try and find out what “Bragi” and “Idun” meant. As naive as I was on my search in trying to translate these two components of the title, they were not words but names of the figures on the image and they identified each one as 2 members in Norse mythology.

First in the center of the piece we see the figure of an almost completely nude male that has a piece of fabric covering the front end of his body while his backside remains exposed. This figure also holds a small harp on his left hand while his right arm is posed half way extended. The harp itself is a clue that this figure is Bragi Norse God of poetry and music. This is the reason why Herger paints the figure with a harp, as it is traditional to represent this God with it. Bragi is the second eldest son of God Odin, next to Thor, and a constant traveler that would share his poem, stories and music where ever he traveled. Herger represents Bragi returning after one of his travels, we can reach this conclusion by an element which is on the first plane of sight and on the bottom left corner, the front end of a boat.

The image of Bragi with or alongside his boat is an extremely rare representation. The Norse God has just recently disembarked his boat and walking towards a female figure, either singing or reciting one of his poems.

The person whom this God is walking towards is his wife, Norse God Idun. Idun is the goddess of spring , rejuvenation and keeper of the magic apples of immortality. The other gods would travel towards her for the apples of immortality they had to eat in order to preserve their youth. You can also see behind her a forest in the peak of spring with flowers even though both Bragi and Idun are on a beach.

The spring is shown to surround her as she walks, the gap between the spring grass and water is a small patch of sand which is where Bragi stands an she is yet to reach. To the right we also see Idun’s figure also covered up, in this case the fabric works as a way to cover her genitalia. Bragi’s fabric emulates Idun’s, censoring his genitals even when we can’t see them and still wouldn’t be able to if he were uncovered because we are only shown his backside. As a way to balance both Gods this isn’t the only aspect they share, their bodies are used to mimic each other. Both Bragi and Idun also have their right arms partially lifted as to represent a gesture of an open and happy welcome While both their left arms hold something Bragi his harp and Idun he fabric which covers her, even how their feet are positioned, right leg in front and left leg mid-step forward, showing that they are walking towards one another.

Whether this piece by Edmund Herger represents an actual scene or tale between the Norse Gods, I’m unaware as Bragi is a little like Edmund himself, extremely hard to find information of with the exception of a few tales that are entire in German, and my German is purely beginner. As to my focus with the painting “Bragi und Idun” considered complete.And although I couldn’t track down any more information on Herger or why he created this image I learned something I didn’t plan to learn, Norse Mythology and a little of how Herger used different elements to describe what he wanted present.

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