Profiles

Mia Åkestam

Maria Ahlbäck Åkestam

Universitetslektor

Visa sidan på svenska
Works at Department of Culture and Aesthetics
Telephone 08-16 36 25
Email mia.akestam@arthistory.su.se
Visiting address Frescativägen 22B-26
Room 339
Postal address Institutionen för kultur och estetik 106 91 Stockholm

Publications

A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2017. Mia Åkestam. Tears, Sighs and Laughter, 215-239

    Within a hundred years The Bjälbo- or the Folkungar-palace in Vadstena by the Lake Vättern, was built (c. 1250) and transformed from king Valdemars royal palace to the nuns´s convent in the Birgittine monastery (1360s). This paper deals with an era in Swedish history when a powerful nobility wanted to establish a courtly culture and connected to a broader European context in politics as well as in religious life. Birgitta Birgersdotter (1303–1373) was a part of, and a strong force in, this milieu. New attitudes towards smile and laughter ought to be an important factor in such a transformation. Sweden was peripheral  in relation to central cultural areas, but the ambitions to establish the aristocracy after a german/french model was taken very seriously in  13th century Sweden. This is also true for architecture and sculpture. The grand cathedrals of France, Germany and England were models and “the gothic smile” was an ideal outside the courts. By stressing the importance public spaces the paper shows how a visual culture, profane and religious, could be adopted in remote areas. The meeting with medieval faces is a challence not only for us contemporary wievers, but was also during the middle ages.

  • 2017. Per Förnegård (et al.).

    In the 1990s a new interest for research on emotions and affectivity in the humanities and the social sciences began to develop. This movement, later referred to as “the affective turn”, has been a most productive and vigorous field of research in the past decades, as it opens up for new interpretations of historical source materials and enables studies of the relationship between states of mind and materiality. In addition, it prompts questions of, for example, gender, power and religiosity, thus being conducive to a fuller understanding of historical events, places and persons. This anthology is the result of the Marcus Wallenberg symposium at the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities in early spring 2014. All studies included concern the interpretation of emotional expression in medieval art and literature written by scholars representing a wide variety of disciplines.

  • 2013. Maria (Mia) Ahlbäck Åkestam. Pangs of Love and longing, 235-252

    Lady Birgitta Birgersdotter (ca 1303–1373), Saint Birgitta of Sweden, was born and lived in an environment with noble ideals and with extensive international contacts. She was a wife and mother of eight, and a lady at the court of king Magnus Eriksson and Magistra to Queen Blanche of Sweden. Lady Birgitta was a traveller and a pilgrim. As a widow, she chosed the spiritual life not by retreat to a nunnery, but by leaving the country with the aim of founding a new monastic order. Birgitta and her large entourage began the journey to Rome in 1349.

    Her background in the highest nobility, and a courtly culture that she highly esteemed, is reflected in her revelations. I will argue that this courtliness is also communicated in the use of imagery in Vadstena monastery the years around 1400. But pictures were not without its problems, as will become apparent in another example in the very same context.

    The Revelations were written down in Latin and in Old Swedish from the 1340s in Sweden to her death in Rome in July1373. Saint Birgitta had reason to reflect on issues like desire not only from her own private perspective, but also because her Revelations in the end formed the basis for an international monastic order. On the one hand there were bodily desires that should be mastered, on the other there was a religious desire for God.

    The revelations were widely spread. During the canonization to en elite among the clergy, kings and noblemen and later they were used in the Birgittine convents, and quoted in innumerable sermons and spread to cathedrals and the parish churces. Therefore, they can be used when the aim is to highlight the use of imagery and devotional life in the Middle Ages. These texts reached far beyond the scholarly and monastic environment.

    This paper focuses on expressions of the ambivalent relationship as indicated above. My intention is to highlight the often complex relation between text and image, and to include adopting of form between secular and spiritual imagery in the discussion. As desires involves feelings, I will pay attention to expressions of the senses. The question is if and how the presumed ambivalence between worldly and spiritual, is evident in the Revelations and imagery in Vadstena? What visual codes were used? How was imagery used, and what attitudes towards imagery can we trace through text and images?

  • 2009. Mia Åkestam, Erika Kihlman. Regards sur la France du Moyen Âge, 111-153
  • Chapter Creating Space
    2017. Maria (Mia) Ahlbäck Åkestam. Continuity and Change, 41-60
  • Thesis (Doc) Bebådelsebilder
    2010. Mia Åkestam (et al.).

    This thesis investigates the Annunciation motif and the use of images in a medieval socio-cultural context. There are almost 400 medieval images of the Annunciation from the period 1150–1550 in Sweden today. It is found in murals, baptismal fonts, paintings, wooden sculpture, stone reliefs, liturgical vessels, textile works and altarpieces. The aim of the thesis is to present this rich and varied material, and also to relate the images to the milieus where they were used and viewed as objects of cult, and to elucidate the historical situation in which they were used for communicative purposes.  It is argued that an “image-culture” perspective and a long-term investigation can reveal other aspects than a specific study, and that it is fruitful to equally emphasize the rhetoric of the image, the beholders part and the historical context. Hence the picture analysis is based on semiotics and rhetoric analysis of pictures and reception theory. With this point of departure the thesis addresses iconographic problems and shows that text as a source and explanation of historical image can be insufficient.

    The study shows that the figures’ gestures and body language, their contenace, is crucial for our understanding, and remains the most important mark of identification. The motif can be identified even with an angel without wings. The meaning of this universal picture could then be enlarged with specific attributes and symbols with a purpose to emphasize specific ideas. In context this elucidates bishopric, monastic as well as worldly use of imagery. The image context includes motifs from classical antiquity, references to the pious Christian worshiper, as well as symbolic staging of the Gospels and Christian faith. More expected is the biblical history. The motif can also be displayed alone, and thus it can be regarded as a sign. An important outcome is that the Annunciation not is used in legendary suites or in narratives of the Virgin Mary. Hence, the relationship between image and text is not uncomplicated. The thesis shows that people in the Middle Ages were fully aware of the use of pictures and skilfully used the rhetoric of the image.

Show all publications by Maria Ahlbäck Åkestam at Stockholm University

Last updated: March 23, 2018

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